Where’s My Santa? / My Little World: Christmas

Here are two Christmassy board books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Where’s My Santa?
Becky Davies, illustrated by Kate McLelland

When Santa goes missing, it’s up to little fingers (and eyes) to track him down in this touchy-feely book. Guided by the simple text with its repeat refrain and with boot prints, a snowman’s hat, sparkly boots belonging to Elf,

Reindeer’s warm coat providing different tactile experiences and the trail of colourful prints traversing the pages towards a final fold-down flap that reveals the object of the search, very young children will delight in exploring Kate McLelland’s brightly coloured festive pages to discover Father Christmas’s whereabouts.

My Little World: Christmas
Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway

There’s seasonal counting fun for the very young as Patricia Hegarty’s rhyming narrative takes listeners and readers from ‘One little Christmas tree’ through to ‘ten presents to find on Christmas Day’.

On the way they’ll encounter a host of characters – polar bears, bunny rabbits, owls, snowmen, carol singers, penguins,

elves and reindeer, all in one way or another busy around the central die-cut Christmas tree, until those reindeer take Santa on his delivery round and the tree is adorned with baubles and lights. All this is shown in Fiona Galloway’s bright, jolly scenes of snowy fun and frolics.

The Snow Bear

The Snow Bear
Holly Webb
Little Tiger

Sara is visiting her Grandad who lives in the north, deep in the countryside. It’s the run up to Christmas and the intention is that they will both return to Sara’s parents in time for them all to be together at Christmas. Mum is expecting a baby imminently.

However things don’t quite go to plan, a very heavy snowfall cuts them off making the journey impossible. Grandad, who is writing a book on Inuit folk tales, does his best to keep her entertained with stories about his Arctic childhood, in particular about finding a young polar bear when he accompanied his own father to the Canadian Arctic.

The following day Sara builds a snow bear of her own and in the worsening snowstorm she and Grandad make a small igloo. Then in his efforts to keep his granddaughter’s homesickness at bay, Grandad agrees that the two of them can share a midnight feast in the igloo.

There, under the twinkling stars, Sara dreams her very own magical adventure wherein she meets a bear cub looking for its mother, an Inuit boy Alignak and his grandmother, and learns something of their culture.

Beautifully written and full of charm, albeit with lots of shivers, this is a lovely story to read aloud in KS1 or for solo readers from around 7. Snuggle down and prepare to be transported by this 10th anniversary edition.

Namaste is a Greeting / Balloon to the Moon

Namaste is a Greeting
Suma Subramaniam and Sandhya Prabhat
Walker Books

When I first started visiting India many years ago ‘namaste’ was explained to me as ‘my heart to your heart’ – a lovely summary I thought. Now the author and illustrator of this delightful book explore the meaning of the word namaste, used by Hindi speakers as a greeting. Herein a little girl discovers that in fact ‘namaste’ is all around her and can be expressed by a smile, through friendship, celebration, a yoga asana, silence and much more.

I love Sandhya Prabhat’s bright storytelling illustrations showing the interactions between the child and the grandmother character and how the former nurtures a plant for the latter.

This seemingly simple book has considerable depth and is one to share over and over with young children; it’s a delight.

Balloon to the Moon
Becky Davies and Jennica Lounsbury
Little Tiger

Drawing on mindfulness and meditation techniques, Becky Davies’ dreamy lilting rhyming text and Jennica Lounsbury’s soft lyrical illustrations encourage young children, safely tucked up in bed to let go, relax completely and gradually drift off into dreamland.

An adult switches out the light and we watch as the moonlight calls through a small girl’s window, causing her bed to lift and balloon-like, drift gently out into the star-filled, moonlit sky, guided by firefies. Silver songbirds and sheep-shaped clouds accompany the moving bed over land and sea to the accompaniment of dolphins’ songs, shushing water and chorusing whales

as it continues its journey through the velvety night sky towards the smiling, welcoming face of the moon and sleep’s loving embrace.

If you’re looking for a sleep-inducing picture book to share with young children, try this gentle, reassuring story just before bed.

The Christmas Department Store

The Christmas Department Store
Maudie Powell-Tuck and Hoang Giang
Little Tiger

It’s Christmas Eve but Benji feels anything but festive: it seems as though Christmas has lost its magic this year. His family can’t afford either a tree or a turkey and so they’re sad. As Benji walks through the snow-filled street wishing he could buy them spectacular presents he recalls his Granny’s words about magic happening on Christmas Eve. Suddenly a huge polar bear knocks him flying and as he gets up, there before him is a large department store. But this is no ordinary store; it’s full of wonder and magic, with penguin doormen and a shiny steam train that puffs along on a glittering spiral track.

One by one, Benji discovers the most perfect gifts for his family – a funky trumpet for his sister Hana, which he pays for by singing a silly song,

an unusual imaginary hat for his gran (he tells a story to a leopard in payment for that) and a very special warm-smelling potion for his dad. Full of excitement and high hopes for a wonderful Christmas Day, he returns home.

Next morning those hopes become doubts; but when he sees the smiles on Hana, Dad and Granny’s faces when they open their presents, he realises that the real gifts he’s given them are not material things but love and happiness.

Absolutely full of heart, this enchanting tale shows that the very best presents aren’t those bought with money, but those given with love and care. With their warm festive tones of red, gold and green Hoang Giang’s illustrations on every spread are filled with the magic of the department store.

1 2 3 Sleepy Me / I Can Count

Here are two playful counting books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

1 2 3 Sleepy Me
Sophie Aggett and Gareth Lucas

This die-cut counting book has a nocturnal theme and moulded textured numerals 1-5 offer a variety of tactile experiences. Strangely Gareth Lucas sets his illustrations of stars to count and talking minibeasts – a ladybird, a firefly, a butterfly, a baby bee and a glow-worm against brightly coloured rather than dark backgrounds, although the final one is rather more subdued as the glow-worm decides it’s time for sleep. The rhyming text begins thus, ‘One little night star shining over you. “Goodnight!” says a ladybird as she spots …’ and continues adding a star 

until in addition to the five twinkly stars there’s a full moon in the sky and all five minibeasts assemble to bid, ‘Goodnight, everyone!’
Simple, interactive pre bedtime counting fun for tinies.

I Can Count
Lauren Crisp and Thomas Elliott

This cleverly designed board book is intended to help little ones with both counting and number recognition. A die-cut shape through both the covers and the pages contains an arched shape plastic rod through which are threaded ten beads. The rhyming text alternates giving an instruction like ‘Horses gallop in the sun. Can you count them as they run? or asking a question such as ‘How many arms do starfish grow?’ Additionally on each page is the relevant numeral and on each spread the sentence, “Slide the beads to help you count!’

On the 10 page stands a rocket and rather than counting up from 1, the instruction is ‘Join the countdown to see it fly.’ encouraging children to count backwards 10 9 8 etc … LIFT OFF! 

Thomas Elliott provides the brightly coloured illustrations on every page with cute googly-eyed characters and in addition to maths skills little ones will develop their fine motor skills.

Timid

Timid
Harry Woodgate
Little Tiger

Timmy is a non-binary child who loves performing and dreams of one day becoming a stage star and being able to share stories with others. However unless singing and dancing in the bedroom there’s problem in the form of a very large, grumpy lion and it’s always lurking stopping Timmy from focussing. One day Mr Stevens, Timmy’s teacher announces to the class that there’s to be a school play, Timmy feels no excitement on account of that lion.

At lunch break Timmy sits watching the other children playing together when a classmate approaches

and a friendship begins to blossom between the two. It turns out that both children are actually shy and with mutual encouragement they create costumes,

rehearse, meditate and use positive affirmations. Little by little the relationship between Timmy and the lion becomes calmer and Timmy becomes more self-assured.

Come the night of the show however, Timmy has a crisis of confidence. Can it be overcome with Nia’s help? It surely can and as for the show: it’s a dazzler.

This uplifting story of getting the better of shyness will surely resonate with almost any young child. Youngsters will understand that the lion is a metaphor for Timmy’s anxiety and love the vibrant illustrations. There’s lots to explore in the opening scene set in Timmy’s bedroom and take a look at the various flags shown during the story.

Magic Keepers: Crystal Chaos / Theodora Hendrix and the Snare of the Shadowmongers

Magic Keepers: Crystal Chaos
Linda Chapman, illustrated by Hoang Giang
Little Tiger

This is the first of a new series wherein Linda Chapman establishes a magical world based at Curio House. Ava and her mother have just moved into what was her archaeologist great aunt Edith’s home, where she has left her collection of curios saying in her will that this must remain there and not be sold. Rather it was her hope that one of her relations would find this collection ‘special’. 

Enter Ava and her dog, Pepper. Pretty soon Ava discovers that special means magic or perhaps ‘Magyck’ in the case of the crystals. Each of said crystals holds its own potential energy. It’s into this magical world that Ava, together with her new friends Sarah and Lily fall. Ava discovers an ancient mummified crocodile that is affected by the resurrection crystal and it’s down to the three girls (and Ava’s dog Pepper) to discover how to control and make use of the other crystals’ powers, and do so pretty snappily, if they are to prevent the scaly creature terrorising the entire town.

As well as an exciting adventure this is a tale of new beginnings and of friendship that demonstrates that everybody is different and that working together is the best thing to do for them all.

A thoroughly enjoyable read for primary age children, strikingly illustrated by Hoang Giang. I wonder what comes next for the Magic Keepers and that curio collection.

Theodora Hendrix and the Snare of the Shadowmongers
Jordan Kopy, illustrated by Lisa Hunt
Walker Books

Theodora, the girl raised by monsters, is back for a third adventure along with Sherman (spider) and friend Dexter. Theodora is excited at the prospect of visiting New York for the Christmas holidays (other than having been given homework on the very last day of term, which she’ll have to take with her). She can’t help thinking of all the pizzas she will be able to consume. On arrival they discover that the Big Apple is packed with the horrendous Shadowmongers, supposedly banished to the Antarctica several thousand years back; and then they come upon the sinister Hilda who says she has unbanished them and now they have joined forces. Their aim is to bring down the Monstrous League of Monsters and with it Theodora, once and for all, thus putting humans the world over in the most terrible danger, causing them to have nightmares every night for the rest of their lives.

Facing perils aplenty, Theodora (the one who sees the Shadowmongers), Dexter (who doesn’t) and Sherman (he seems to know a fair bit about these vile creatures) have to navigate the city where the ghastly beings seem to reappear whenever they think they’ve escaped them.
With New Year over, it’s time to head back to face another school term but is that the last of the Shadowmongers? That would be telling …

With Lisa Hunt’s expressive black and white illustrations throughout, this is just right for autumnal reading, especially for those who enjoy spooky stories tinged with humour.

Who Will Kiss The Crocodile?

Who Will Kiss The Crocodile?
Suzy Senior and Claire Powell
Little Tiger

Suzy Senior puts a hilarious spin on a favourite fairytale in her snappy rhyming take on Sleeping Beauty. It starts on Princess Liss’s first birthday when her family hold a big fancy ball for all the town’s residents, or rather, all but one. With the party in full swing there’s a sudden chill as in sweeps a furious fairy who proceeds to shout, “… In fifteen years, she’ll bump her knee.And then the princess DIES!” and with a wave of her wand she turns the infant into a baby crocodile. All is not quite lost though thanks to a life-saving pixie who informs the princess’s distraught parents that instead of dying, their daughter will sleep `til woken with a kiss. But who would be willing to kiss a crocodile, especially one with increasingly long claws?

On her sixteenth birthday the princess injures her knee while swimming in the lake and takes to her bed for what turns out to be a snooze lasting around a century, during which numerous princes have shown up at the castle only to flee when they realise what slumbers within the increasingly crumbling castle.

Eventually the neighbours decide to call upon the services of the Handy-Grans to carry out some urgent work on the thorny hedge surrounding the castle. This they do and after a day’s slog they discover the slumbering crocodile within.

Rather than running for their lives, they run back to their van for some knee soothing salve…
Surely there couldn’t be a happily ever after to this story – or could there?

Claire Powell’s comical scenes are simply bursting with bright colour, her cast of characters is inclusive and Suzy’s text is a delight to read aloud. If you like fractured fairy tales, don’t miss this one.

The Arctic Railway Assassin / Solve Your Own Mystery: The Missing Magic

The Arctic Railway Assassin
M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Macmillan Children’s Books

Hal flies off to Sweden where he is to meet Uncle Nat. From Stockholm the following day they will take a Christmas trip aboard the sleeper train bound for the Aurora Sky Station to see the Northern Lights. Uncle Nat announces that his friend Morti, who has just won the Nobel Prize, is to accompany them, but then she suddenly changes her plan. After the announcement of her prize she’s been scared by some inexplicable events with things of hers disappearing and now Hal and Nat are to travel without her.

While waiting to board the train Hal sketches a group of musicians,

then as they leave Stockholm, he and his uncle think they are being followed, and Nat tells the boy that one of the people in his drawing is an assassin from his past, supposedly long dead. Something doesn’t quite add up with this picture of Hal’s. And what about the sudden appearance of Hal’s mum on board too?

Full of suspense, and with some great new characters, this truly is a gripping page turner with some really perilous episodes when readers will find themselves fearing for the lives of some of the characters. Hal’s drawing skills really come to the fore in this adventure, considerably helping to solve the mystery of what the assassins are after and where it is. Elisa Paganelli’s illustrations do a wonderful job bringing his sketches to life and adding to the reader’s involvement in solving the mystery.

My only regret is that this is the final book in the brilliant Adventures on Trains series.

Solve Your Own Mystery: The Missing Magic
Gareth P. Jones, illustrated by Louise Forshaw
Little Tiger

In the third interactive adventure from Gareth P. Jones there’s another puzzling mystery waiting for readers to solve. Like previous titles it’s set in the town of Haventry, a place where with its unusual population almost anything can happen at any time. Now it’s the opening day of Magicon, the world’s biggest magic convention and everyone is gathering for the great event when suddenly disaster strikes: all the magic in the town disappears. Who is responsible for this catastrophe?

It’s up to readers to don their detective hats, find out, and get it back in time for the opening ceremony. Could the thief perhaps be Evil Enid; or maybe Nigel Rigmarole whose business is magical energy? These are just two of the possible suspects that detective you, along with boss Klaus Solstaag (a yeti) need to consider. There are also the likes of meditative unicorn Moondance (too good to be true maybe)

and powerful Magic Circle head, Grandmaster Dimbleby.

There’s not a minute to lose: time to make the sparks fly – unless you want to shoulder the responsibility of allowing an ancient monster to waken from a century-long sleep beneath the town.

With a multitude of possible routes to take, this is terrific fun and with Louise Forshaw’s splendid portrayal of the weird and wonderful characters, this diverting read will delight primary age readers who like fantastical tales.

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City / Midnight Magic: Witch Trap

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
Kallie George, illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Walker Books

Crimson Twill is anything but your typical witch. Instead she wears a hat to match her name, giggles rather than cackling and she’s a dreamer. She can hardly wait to pay her very first visit to the world’s biggest department store, Broomingdale’s in New Wart City. There she will spend her hard earned money, but what will she buy? After some deliberation, she heads off to the Cat floor and yes there are plenty of cats, but what interests Crimson most is actually a puppy; this she rescues from a highly disapproving saleswitch, Ms Whiskers.

It’s not until she reaches the hat floor that the quirky little witch finds something she likes, a hat completely different from all the pointy ones: this one has a huge bouncy bow but there is only one of them and just as she’s about to make a purchase, Crimson encounters another witchling whom she learns has been saving up for this very hat for weeks. What will Crimson choose: the hat for herself or happiness for her fellow witchling? 

This turns out to be only one of the opportunities Crimson has to demonstrate her compassionate nature and in the end she realises that not only is it okay to be different, but also that there is something more valuable than any purchase she might have made – friends.

With its theme of being true to yourself, full of witchy whimsicalness and gentle humour – I love the fun word plays – this is the first of Kallie George’s chapter book series. Birgitta Sif’s black and white illustrations are a delight, depicting an inclusive city community.

Midnight Magic: Witch Trap
Michelle Harrison and Elissa Elwick
Little Tiger

This is the third in the rhyming series starring black cat Midnight and her human friend Trixie. It’s October half term and the two are building a den in the garden (‘their own top-secret lair’), while Nan plants bulbs and Dad sweeps up leaves. With his magic, Midnight creates a leaf dragon and the friends are so excited they fail to notice that somebody is watching them. That somebody is a witch called Wendy who is especially interested in Midnight’s special powers and tries to buy her. Trixie gives her a flat refusal and the witch flies off with a worrying glint in her eye, leaving Trixie a tad concerned.

That night into the room where Midnight and Trixie are fast asleep creeps Wendy, who takes the cat away in a cage. The following morning Trixie discovers a clue to the identity of the catnapper 

and off she goes on a rescue mission, accompanied by Dad and Nan. Readers meanwhile discover why Wendy has taken Midnight and the cat in turn learns that her family is coming to her rescue. All ends happily with further revelations, a promise, understanding, kindness and more.

Huge fun for reading aloud or reading solo, this sparkling story has an autumnal feel thanks to Elissa Elwick’s choice of orange to predominate in her bold illustrations of the action.

Britannica’s Baby Encyclopedia / Night-Night Animals

Britannica’s Baby Encyclopedia
Sally Symes, illustrated by Hanako Clulow
Britannica Books

With just over seventy pages in all, this board book first encyclopaedia is divided into sections: our world, animals, plants, body, food, machines, art & music, shapes and numbers, every one of which is beautifully illustrated in bold colours. Each section begins and ends with a full page picture and the accompanying suitably simple text is thoughtfully worded to read like an opening and finale. 

For example Our World starts thus: ‘Our world is a place called Earth. In the morning, the sun comes up and the day begins.’ and concludes, ‘At the end of the day, the moon and stars light up the night sky.’ So, it would work well if an adult and child shared the book, one section per sitting. Little ones will love joining in with all the ‘sound’ words: this section has ‘Plip-plop!’ ‘Flitter! Flutter!’, ‘Gurgle! Burble!, ‘Crash! Smash!’ and several farm animal noises. 

Just the right amount of information is included in each section to engage small children, while also enhancing their vocabulary and knowledge.(A consultant Dr Amanda Gummer was used to this end.) It’s good to see that care has been taken to include a diverse range of humans in every topic presented.
A book to add to family collections if there is a very young child.

Night-Night Animals
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott
Little Tiger

This ‘pull the sliders, change the picture’ title takes little ones to various natural locations where it’s time for the fauna to go to sleep. First visit is the forest wherein there are rabbits, deer, a fox, a mouse and a nesting bird. Which one is nocturnal and needs waking with the help of the slider?
The savannah animals all seem to have shut their eyes already except for one; he needs help to get to sleep. The deep sea has lots of sleepy creatures large and small but one with eight limbs needs the reader’s help. After helping whichever of the rainforest animals is wide awake, it’s the turn of little humans including one very bouncy person who has to stop all those boings.

A fun, interactive bedtime book for the very youngest children who will enjoy assisting the animals before nodding off themselves.

Mind Your Manners, Dinosaurs! / One Little Bug

These are two recent board books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

Mind Your Manners, Dinosaurs!
Danielle McLean and Gareth Williams

A fun book with cutaway pages that introduces toddlers to some basic table manners as one by one five little dinosaurs assemble around the table for their dinner. On the recto of each, one of the five dinos is introduced and beneath a flap, which is an integral part of the illustration, is a sentence that moves the action forward. Turn over and on the verso that same dinosaur is now seated and showing how to ask politely for something, while on the recto we meet dinosaur number two. This same pattern continues until all five little dinosaurs are sitting ready to eat and Mother Dinosaur reminds them all of a few additional basic manners and wishes them ‘Bon Apétit’.

Cleverly constructed, cheerily illustrated and with a simple upbeat text that praises the little ones appropriately, this offers interactive learning for the very young.

One Little Bug
Becky Davies and Jacob Souva

This lift-the-flap board book offers a good way to introduce very young children to minibeasts, along with of course, seeing the real things in the wild. Little ones will discover the best places to look for bugs and how to collect some for observation. There’s information about the amazing homes some bugs construct, for instance, black garden ants build nests with different chambers for different purposes, as well as a look at how humans can build a bug hotel – a safe insect habitat to be used for living or hibernation purposes. Readers also find out about the abilities of some of our back garden dwellers: did you know for example that a cockroach is able to live without a head for up to a week and also survive under water for more than half an hour?

There’s plenty to explore on every spread as a lot of additional information is hidden beneath the flaps and adults will need to help them digest some of the text, so this is definitely not a book to hurry through.
Altogether a beautiful introduction both visual and verbal, to the natural world.

Beyond the Frozen Horizon

Beyond the Frozen Horizon
Nicola Penfold
Little Tiger

Prepare to be chilled to the bone and not just on account of the setting of this gripping story.
The setting being a hopeful 2030 when humans have taken huge leaps to avoid climate disaster, passing Universal Climate Laws and creating Wilderness Zones to save wildlife and absorb carbon. However, the recovery is still all too fragile. Rory, who is finding life at home and school difficult, accompanies her environmental geologist mother, to the Arctic Wilderness Zone to approve Greenlight’s plans to extract from there, the rare earth metals which will be used for ‘clean’ transport and technology. So she believes when she accepts this once in a lifetime opportunity for herself and Rory, who will be able to see those northern animals she’s dreamed of.

The local people in the town of Pyramiden, who live in harmony with the beautiful, harsh and dangerous environment are becoming increasingly suspicious of Greenlight’s activities and Rory struggles to try and fit in with them. However eventually after experiencing some supernatural happenings, she makes friends with one local boy, Mikkal, and together they strive to discover the truth about what is really happening and pass it on to Rory’s increasingly stressed mother before it’s too late. Perhaps in so doing they will be able to bring peace to the ghosts of the past.

This is such a powerful environmental story, full of atmosphere, a build up of tension you can almost feel, with some dangerous events and some totally credible characters. Most important, it’s a brilliant portrayal of corporate greed and ‘greenwashing’ that is surely a wake-up call to all of us: the precious environment must be protected and we must change our ways before it’s too late. Anyone who cares about the Arctic and the environment in general will want to read this, but then pass it on to those who have yet to wake up to the crisis.

Agent Llama Alpaca Attack!

Agent Llama Alpaca Attack!
Angela Woolfe and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

It’s good to see llama super-spy Charlie Palmer in action again with a new mission. Somebody is intent on world destruction using can you believe – a ‘Pasta-Splat Machine’. Already spaghetti-filled streets are being reported as far afield as Delhi and Dublin, schools are shut and the streets awash with sauce.

Grabbing her gadgets from their subterranean hiding place, Charlie revs up her turbo engine and off she zooms, on mission halt that pasta doom, destination a popular beach resort that is currently under attack.

Almost immediately on arrival so too is she, from above and below, but our Charlie is not one to give up as she starts to perform some show-stopping feats.

However, having scaled the heights our agent gets the surprise of her life: I instantly thought of a drama currently showing on BBC tv wherein a politician has his identity stolen, for that is what appears to have happened to our intrepid Charlie Palmer.

There before her, once his disguise is removed, stands none other than one time agent, rogue alpaca Harley Hacker. What Charlie learns next is potentially catastrophic. Can she crack that vital code, halt one billion drones and thus save the solar system’s central star?

Full on drama indeed and I have no doubt young listeners will absolutely love it. Angela Woolfe’s high octane rhyming text trips nicely off the tongue and Duncan Beedie’s comic style illustrations are just brilliant.

Nibbles: The Bedtime Book

Nibbles: The Bedtime Book
Emma Yarlett
Little Tiger

‘Once upon a bedtime, / it was getting very late, / And a book monster called Nibbles / Was sleeping in his crate …’ So begins this latest adventure of our favourite book devouring monster but anybody who knows Nibbles will immediately realise that sleeping will not be what he’s doing. Instead he’s off in search of favourite tales to chomp through.

The first to receive the toothy treatment is The Ugly Duckling (retold by an anagrammatic alias of Nibbles’ author). Having made waves in that

he proceeds to try his luck with a certain fairytale glass slipper try on and ends up showing his rear end to the newly weds as he exits their ceremony.

Thank goodness then for the next volume he discovers – a book of lullabies.

Can those starry wonders up above the world so high, prevent Nibbles from sinking his gnashers into every single planet in the solar system and sated by their galactic singing, transport him back into bed in time for young readers to bestow upon him one goodnight kiss before he finally drifts off to dreamland? Or maybe some other place … you never know with Nibbles.

A wonderful bedtime read, but equally enjoyable whatever time you choose to share it with young children. Adult readers aloud will have fun identifying their favourite childhood stories among those on the shelves in the book-filled room.

Everything Changes / When You Joined Our Family

Everything Changes
Clare Helen Welsh and Åsa Gilland
Little Tiger

A parental break up is never easy for a young child and it’s certainly challenging for the young narrator of this picture book.

Clare Helen Welsh is a perceptive and skilled writer who handles difficult topics with great sensitivity, always keeping in mind that she’s creating a compelling story that is also a source of acknowledgement, guidance, and comfort. Through her sensitive words and Åsa Gilland’s exquisite illustrations we see and feel the emotional upheaval of the child from the time Mummy and Daddy announce one summer’s day against the backdrop of the seashore, that they can no longer live together.

The parents in this story both clearly very much love their child and using the natural world against which to have this story unfold is, like The Perfect Shelter, inspired. Herein we see the changing seasons as we follow the changes in the life of the three characters through the eyes of the child. Autumn brings a new house for dad, a garden with trees that shed their leaves forming a ‘blanket of red and orange’ and strong wind that causes the little one to wonder, ‘Was it my fault?’ Dad’s reassuring explanation in response calms his daughter’s inner turbulence however and her worries dissipate.

Winter brings snowy days and discussions with both mum and dad, further reassurance of their love for the narrator for ‘ it isn’t about hoping that the storm will pass … it’s about learning to dance in the raindrops!’

The story ends with a celebratory sixth birthday gathering of adults and children and the uplifting narrative conclusion, that change can bring good things and once you know that, everything changes. Åsa Gilland uses a changing colour palette for her striking illustrations that capture superbly the gamut of emotions and the different seasons of the text.

When You Joined Our Family
Harriet Evans and Nia Tudor
Little Tiger

This is a wonderfully warm look at the experience of adoption and a celebration belonging in a family, seen through the eyes of several adopters. Love is the key element that unites a family and love is what shines out from Nia Tudor’s illustrations on every spread.

The children adopted might look different from their new parent(s), be differently abled, tiny babies or of school age, it matters not. In this book we share in the entire adoption experience from those very first meetings to feeling a part of something unique and special:

there’s excitement, strangeness, reassurances, pride, unconditional love, a sharing of stories, sometimes the meeting of a new brother or sister and the beginning of new family traditions. All this is presented through a straightforward, affirmative text and Nia Tudor’s beautifully patterned, details illustrations that underscore the positive nature of Harriet’s words.

Both books are musts for primary school collections. I’d also recommend any family experiencing a break up to get hold of Everything Changes, and any new adoptive parents to have a copy of When You Joined Our Family to share.

Puppy Club / Kitten Love

Puppy Club
Catherine Jacob, illustrated by Rachael Saunders
Little Tiger

The Puppy Club comprises four fanatical puppy loving friends, Jaya, Elsa, Harper and Willow. They’re all thrilled to learn that Lulu, a relatively new arrival at Underdogs rescue centre owned by Jaya’s Auntie Ashani, and where they help out, is expecting puppies. They’d love a pup each but can they persuade their respective families to adopt one? It doesn’t seem very likely, so to that end they set about ‘Operation PAWfect Puppy. First though they need to decide whether Puppy Club can accommodate two new dog-loving members, Daniel and Arlo, who both appear to have something to offer. 

Oh ‘my woofy word’, the answer is yes. Now all that’s left is to get all those parents on board with the idea of a puppy for each family; it’s certainly going to take a lot of coaxing and convincing but the children are very determined …

With likeable characters, and the seamless embedding of a fair few puppy facts, particularly with regard to adopting a pup, into her narrative, Catherine Jacobs’ story, which cleverly sets readers up for a sequel, is just right for those just starting out on chapter books. Delightful illustrations by Rachael Saunders help break up the text and there’s even a cookie recipe courtesy of Arlo and a dog breed quiz from Daniel and Arlo at the end.

Kitten Love
Holly Webb, illustrated by Sophy Williams
Little Tiger

This bind up of three kitten stories is excellent value for young solo readers who haven’t read the individual books, Lost in the StormThe Curious Kitten and The Homeless Kitten.
Lost in the Storm is young Ella’s kitten Fluff. One snowy day while exploring outside during a snowstorm Fluff can’t find the way home because the snow makes everything familiar look different. She takes refuge in an abandoned house where she discovers a distressed tiny white kitty and the two spend the night together. Meanwhile Ella is distraught as her Fluff isn’t there when she returns from school. Over the weekend Ella searches; she and her pet are eventually reunited but what is Fluff trying to tell Ella? When she too discovers the white furry ball clearly weak and barely breathing, the family must decide if there’s room in that cat basket for one more kitten, if it survives.

The Curious Kitten, Cleo, belongs to Amber. One day her curiosity leads her into a builder’s van when some work is being done across the road and its owner drives off without noticing. The kitten escapes to find herself in a strange new place. Will she ever find her way back to Amber? Perhaps with the help of another kitten lover, George.

Lily has come to love her family’s rescue dog Hugo but what she wants more than anything is a kitten so she’s thrilled to bits when Hugo sniffs out three tiny abandoned kittens in an old sofa while out on his walk in the woods with Lily and her Dad. Even better for Lily is when she hears that the animal shelter has no room for the kittens and as a consequence her parents reluctantly agree to give them a temporary home. Despite all the hard work involved Lily absolutely loves caring for the kittens, especially the little white one she names Stanley. She knows this is only a temporary home for them, though she has a plan to persuade her parents to let her keep Stanley but then things go wrong. Will Stanley become a permanent part of his new family or will he have to go elsewhere? Let’s say there’s an unexpected final twist to The Homeless Kitten

Summer holiday indulgence for cat-loving readers.

Maths is Weird! / The Periodic Table is Weird!

These are new additions to Little Tiger’s Smash Facts series: thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

Maths is Weird!
The Periodic Table is Weird!

Noodle Fuel, illustrated by Luke Newell
Little Tiger

The creators of these two funky books employ the assistance of a robot and an alien respectively to present the wealth of information contained therein.


The droids at GigaSmartZ BrainBot Academy, the super-weirdest school in the entire universe guide human students through a mathematical maze, stopping to discuss a wealth of vital topics relating to numbers, number operations, numerical patterns and connections(this includes prime numbers); fractions, decimals, percentages and how to work them out, ratios, probability: did you realise that in a group of 75 people, it’s a 99.9% chance two of them will have the same birthday? There’s a look at both the metric and imperial systems of measuring. Recently there was talk of reverting to the imperial system in the UK – perish the thought!
Geometry is the next theme but clearly without being able to do number operations, much of this would be impossible. Both 2D and 3D shapes are covered

and we’re introduced to some of the ancient philosophers and mathematicians who made vital contributions to mathematics. and there are also ten very weird maths facts and finally some activities to try.

If you want to understand more chemistry, especially about the periodic table, then it’s worth enrolling at Floortlesnazz Grobblesnot Intergalactic Scientific Institute. I’m certain that had my A-level chemistry lessons at school been a fraction as interesting as this whacky book, I wouldn’t have spent a fair bit of my time throwing a netball across the back of the lab to a friend, instead of paying attention to what was being said. In The Periodic Table Is Weird! every element from actinide to zirconium is covered, starting with hydrogen,

which is pretty amazing as to date that means 118 in total and the way the table itself is explained on the opening spread makes a whole lot more sense than ever it did when the periodic table was just a large chart on the wall occasionally referred to in the lessons I attended. And, I’m pretty sure that one had 10 fewer elements than the present one.
Both books are zanily illustrated by Luke Newell: this is light-hearted learning that readers are unlikely to forget.

The Feeling Good Club: Smash Your Worries, Bella / Diary of an Accidental Witch: Ghostly Getaway

These are two Little Tiger books both written in diary form: thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

The Feeling Good Club: Smash Your Worries Bella!
Kelly McKain, illustrated by Jenny Latham

This is the first of a new series, told through the journal of Bella, a Y5 pupil at Cavendish Juniors. As the book opens she’s feeling particularly down as her best friend Rohisha has just moved and to make matters worse, Bella has a Big Worry: she has to give a talk to her class in a few days. Her parents are trying their best to make her feel better but with no success: how is she going to make it through the next six weeks to the summer holidays when Rosh is coming to stay? Their Zoom calls make her feel worse still; her friend only talks about her new situation leaving Bella no opportunity to get a word in edgeways.

However, after a disastrous presentation to her class, during what’s supposed to be Feeling Good Week, Bella begins to bond with two empathetic classmates, Shazmin and Archie and little by little Bella’s confidence grows and she thinks she might even give that talk another go. Then comes a special Feeling Good session from Kris, a parent who is a mindfulness teacher. This is especially useful in helping Bella feel differently about how she reacts to situations and provides some activities to help cope with worries. After all this Bella, Archie and Shazim decide to form the Feeling Good Club.

Now things are definitely looking up but can Bella find the confidence to let Rohisha know how she feels on those Zoom calls and most important can she finally send those worries packing once and for all?

Kelly McKain’s writing shows clearly how well she understands children and their emotions; Bella’s voice is one teachers and parents will recognise, so real does she sound. Equally readers around Bella’s age will understand exactly how she feels as she faces and comes to terms with the challenges presented in this story. It’s one that celebrates everybody’s uniqueness and the power of friendship. The book ends with some mindfulness activities for children. I look forward to hearing more of Bella and her friends.

Diary of an Accidental Witch: Ghostly Getaway
Perdita & Honor Cargill, illustrated by Katie Saunders

Living in Little Spellshire with her weather scientist dad, Bea Black, through whose third diary we share her latest experiences and thoughts, is just into her second term at witch school. She’s mega-excited about the residential school trip and when it’s announced that their destination is Cadabra Castle in the middle of nowhere, Bea is a tad worried about the possibility that it might be haunted. When they arrive there’s a scramble for rooms and Bea, Amara and Winnie end up in a slightly spooky room with a ginormous four-poster bed big enough for three.

The time table they’re given looks very interesting with challenges, quizzes and picnics one of which is followed by a scavenger hunt. Can they succeed in keeping their magic a secret especially when there’s a group of ‘ordinaries’ out hiking who have a special interest in the possibility of a ruined castle. Another challenge is the team building of a shelter – who will win that?

In the final challenge Bea is paired up with Blair – somebody she doesn’t get on with at all – and that in itself is a challenge. However, Bea’s biggest challenge of all is to stop her Dad from finishing his book about Little Spellshire’s micro climate thus preventing the two of them from moving away from the area and the school she loves so much.

This is another winning witchy tale from team Cargill and Saunders. It’s fuelled by cake – a lot of it, friendship, the need for teamwork and the possibility of a ghost: will they actually discover one? You’ll need to get a copy of the book to find out.

The Story Shop Anchors Away! / There’s a Dog in my Brain: Dog Show Disaster

The Story Shop Anchors Away!
Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal
Little Tiger

I loved the idea of The Story Shop, the place selling real adventures that its customers can actually be in, when it blasted off during the spring this year. So it’s a delight to be back in the company of shopkeeper Wilbur and Fred Ferret his assistant, with their plethora of props and plot possibilities for three more episodes.

The first begins when explorer Pearl practically tumbles in just when Wilbur and Fred are about to shut for the day demanding they find her an adventure she’s not experienced before. Thus this fearless woman becomes Captain Pearl and after a bit of persuasion, she agrees to take Fred aboard her ship as her pirate assistant, along with pirate, Edie. But what are scarf knitting pirates and other crafters doing already below deck when she wants a PROPER piratical adventure? Yo Ho Ho! Let operation retrieve their priceless black pearl commence.

Having bobbed about in barrels for ages after their successful mission, Pearl and Fred wash up on shore only to be confronted by a bunch of scary-looking pirates led by Long Jane Silver who is convinced the two are spies sent by Blunderbuss Bob, her rival in the up-coming annual raft race.
Stinky Socks!

Can the two come up with a placatory plan to help their captor win the entire event?

The third episode finds Pearl and Fred sans ship, knocking on the door of a guesthouse belonging to Meg O’Cuttlefish. Once within, they accept an attic room and soon find themselves swapping pirating stories with Meg before bedtime. However something decidedly ghostly disturbs their slumbers; what could be the cause of that mysterious wailing sound?

Full of swashbuckling fun, a scattering of puns and Tony Neal’s comical illustrations, this is a treat for story lovers of the land-lubbing kind taking their early voyages as independent readers.

There’s a Dog in my Brain: Dog Show Disaster
Caroline Green, illustrated by Rikin Parekh
Walker Books

Here’s a crazy chaotic canine caper if ever there was one: actually it’s the second canine body switch episode. It all begins when Dudley the dog consumes almost every single one of the cakes Danny’s dad has so lovingly baked and Mum decides there’s no other choice but to send the pooch to Doggy Boot Camp. Needless to say ten-year old Danny is horrified but shortly after he realises that he’s swapped bodies with Dudley, something his parents fail to notice even though the ill-fated creature is absolutely useless at being a human.

However after the incident at the fancy farm shop that ends up costing in excess of four hundred pounds, the hose escapade

and Danny’s feats at canine classes, there’s no option but to reveal to the parents that a body swap has taken place again. But that means Danny as his alter-ego Dudley has to perform at the dog show and take on dog trainer Rex Power’s perfect pooch, Princess Fenella. nothing can possibly go wrong, surely.

Those with a penchant for pooches, slapstick and perhaps cake will relish Caroline Green’s romp, that’s if it doesn’t render them barking mad. Rikin Parekh’s black and white illustrations add to
the hilarity

The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott

The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott
Sharon Gosling
Little Tiger

This novel with a feminist theme is set in Victorian times; its main character is Katy Willacott, daughter of a botanical taxonomist in the Herbarium at Kew Gardens. Having spent a gap year working in the Herbarium at Kew I suspect I was predisposed to like this book and wow! I absolutely loved it.

Already Katy knows that much as she admires what her mother does and enjoys assisting her, she wants much more out of life than working with dried specimens: her dreams are of
going on great expeditions, finding new wonders and making a name for herself. However she faces a huge obstacle: girls aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing. Then a journalist, the embodiment of the spirit of adventure, Fran Brocklehurst, who is researching an article about women in the sciences tells her of extraordinary women in the world doing extraordinary things, and this acts as a catalyst for Katy.

Almost at the same time though, she learns that her brother is about to depart for Hastings accompanying their father who is leading an expedition there. The day they leave, her grandfather shows Katy a newspaper article about an expedition to Brazil to collect meteorite specimens and she makes up her mind to disguise herself as a boy, head for Southampton and join the crew of the ship Alerte, destination Brazil.

Within a few days, Katy, calling herself William Chandler, has landed herself a job as cabin boy aboard said ship and boy does she have a lot to learn: not least, what is the true mission of the expedition led by Sir Thomas Derby?

After a highly eventful voyage the ship finally reaches its destination and Katy goes her own way. She adds more wonderful friends to those she made at sea and makes some alarming discoveries, as well as having an unexpected meeting as the plot twists and turns.

Katy is a determined, strong, caring and capable character; her journey is one of personal growth too: she learns more about the impact early scientists and collectors are having on the world and she’s faced with some challenging decisions. Many controversial issues are covered that are still relevant today: colonialism, deforestation, the destruction of ecosystems and the impact on the indigenous people; there’s racism and misogyny especially related to STEAM issues.

Katy however is not the only tremendous character: this superb book has several including Fran Brocklehurst, but to meet them all I urge you to get a copy yourself; it’s absolutely full of adventure, excitement, brave people young and not so young, and some truly nasty villains too.

Amazing Animal Tales: Little Tiger / Amazing Animal Tales: Baby Koala and Bugs / Space

Amazing Animal Tales: Little Tiger
Anne Rooney and Carolina Rabei
Amazing Animal Tales: Baby Koala
Anne Rooney and Qu Lan
Oxford Children’s Books

These, first of a new series, follow the survival stories of baby animals. You can use them either as narrative stories of each animal baby or, if you open the flaps (four per book) as a combination of story and information. Each has the additional interactive feature of a creature to look for on every spread and sometimes, a question which needs some investigation by the child to answer.
Little Tiger lives in the Asian tropical rainforest and when we first meet him, is snuggled up with his mother and fellow cubs in a safe warm den.
We then see the cub being suckled before venturing outside into the sunlight of the noisy habitat where there’s time for some playful fighting with the other cubs. There’s a near encounter with a noisy elephant after which Mama carries her tired cub back to the den. However this protectiveness can’t continue and Mamma Tiger must teach her cubs to hunt if they are to thrive.

That still leaves time for some playfulness and a quick dip before sleep time.

The Australian Bush is the setting for Baby Koala. This little joey, like other koalas, spends all its time in the eucalyptus trees sleeping and feeding, either suckled by its mother, or about nine months later, eating eucalyptus leaves. Dangers come in the form of hungry owls and forest fires caused by the intense heat but Mum koala still keeps a protective watch on her Baby Koala, even after it’s outgrown her pouch and instead is carried on her back.

The texts are engaging and will hold a young child’s interest and the illustrations from, in Little Tiger, Carolina Rabei and in Baby Koala, Qu Lan include lots of detail of the flora and fauna of the animals’ respective habitats to explore and talk about. Both titles would be good additions to foundation stage collections and home bookshelves.

Written in a totally different style and for an older audience:

Bugs
Space

Noodle Fuel and Rich Watson
Little Tiger

These two titles in a new Brain Bursts series are characterised by comical illustrations, simple, with quirky edge diagrams, and contained within fact boxes, a wealth of information is presented in a light-hearted style, complete with speech bubbles from the bugs themselves.

It’s incredible to read on the opening page of Bugs that insects make up almost three quarters of all animal species on Earth. Then after an introductory spread readers meet among others, bees, ladybirds, grasshoppers and crickets, damselflies and dragonflies, moths and ants. Can you believe that there are estimated to be ten quadrillion ants on our planet – 10,000,000,000,000,000 – that is indeed a ‘very big number’. I was amazed to discover that there are more than 10,000 different ant species.

Among the most bizarre facts though is one found on the ‘Top Ten Weird Bugs’ spread: did you know that honeybees have hairy eyeballs? There’s also a fun activities page, instructions on how to play Beetle – a game I’ve not played since I was a child – and a final glossary.

Space is similar in tone and covers such topics as stars and star maps, satellites, space travel, space junk (apparently there are such unlikely things as a pair of pliers and a spatula floating around somewhere in space), black holes and red dwarfs. Several space scientists and cosmonauts make an appearance and the book ends with some activities and a glossary. 

‘Boredom-free guaranteed!’ is claimed on the cover: I can’t imagine any child being bored by either of these books.

Supermouse and the Volcano of Doom / Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal

Supermouse and the Volcano of Doom
M.N. Tahl and Mark Chambers
Little Tiger

In case you didn’t make the acquaintance of Supermouse in his previous adventure, Peter Parmesan is no ordinary mouse. When disaster strikes, Peter morphs into Supermouse ready to save the day.
Now along with the regular news of crooks creating chaos comes news of the imminent eruption of Mount Fondue, way too big a task for our hero to handle entirely alone. So, he decides to hold auditions for ‘The League of Remarkable Rodents’ but none of the many that show up for the audition are sufficiently remarkable. Supermouse must face the volcano of doom alone.

As he starts to investigate this hot, hot mountain, there’s a sudden SPLAT that sends our hero skywards. However, refusing to be overcome he fights with all his might to fend off the fiery onslaught until disaster strikes in the form of hot molten cheese.

Is there anyone that could help rescue Supermouse and in so doing save the city? You never know: assistance sometimes comes from an unlikely source.

With its plethora of flaps to explore, speech bubbles, peep-through pages aplenty, wealth of wordplay and rodents of several kinds, this madcap superhero romp will go down well with young would-be superhero humans. They’ll absolutely relish Mark Chambers’ zany action-packed illustrations, that’s for sure.

Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal
Jane Simmons
Graffeg

As Ebb sits listening to the pitter patter of the rain she hears a ‘Wah! Wah!’ coming from the direction of the beach. Off she dashes and there she discovers a baby seal – a playmate at last.After a day romping on the beach and in the waves, a hungry Ebb decides to head home; the little seal tries to follow. Ebb realises that it needs help, seeks the assistance of Mum and Flo

and eventually together they find a way to reunite the baby with its mother.

Jane Simmons’ misty watercolour illustrations evoke the seaside setting beautifully in this third reissue in a wonderful series that, with themes of kindness and teamwork, is as relevant now as twenty years back when the book was originally published.

Me, My Brother and the Monster Meltdown / Dirty Bertie: A Collection of Chaos

Me, My Brother and the Monster Meltdown
Rob Lloyd Jones, illustrated by Alex Patrick
Walker Books

The author of this crazy, laugh-out-loud book was aided and abetted by his two sons who came up with the initial idea and some of the bonkers situations in the story. The setting is the unassuming Sussex coastal town of Rottingdean that has a lot of supermarkets and nothing else much apart from a library and a ‘Home for Ancient People’. The key characters are Otis (the narrator), his younger brother Jago (a doodler of weird images) and their four pals, Daisy, Suzie (she who attempts to burp the entire alphabet), Hardeep and Ben. Chaos reigns pretty much sums up this adventure.

When the story opens the local Tesco has just been under attack from a six-headed gingerbread man with a vicious grin or rather several. But there have been other supermarket onslaughts too and because of all this Otis and Jago’s Dad has turned the basement of their home into a survival bunker, such is his panic at the monstrous situation. Even the prime minster is involved, (not panicking in his bunker and giving daily speeches of the (un)reassuring kind); he’s amassed a team of elite scientists called the Bureau of Investigation of Giant Beasts and Unexplained Monsters. Said group have put posters around the town proclaiming DON’T PANIC! and EVERYTHING IS FINE!

Suddenly the penny drops: the Tesco trasher bears an uncanny resemblance to what Jago had drawn two days earlier on his bed frame using his clicker pen of many colours. Strangely enough some of the other giant monsters look familiar too, but none of the grown ups wants to listen to what Otis tries to tell them

so now it’s left to him and his friends to sort out this monstrous mess. On the more serious side, I love the dig at the government about libraries being shut down.

With a fair phew rear end explosions and a liberal scattering of suitably silly illustrations by Alex Patrick (shame Mr Khan appears to be wearing a Sikh pagri), this is a madcap romp if ever there was one.

Dirty Bertie: A Collection of Chaos
Alan MacDonald and David Roberts
Little Tiger

Young readers who have missed the redoubtable Dirty Bertie in his three separate books Worms!, Fetch! and Trouble! will be pleased to know that they can now find them in one bumper volume of mischief.

Any small boy who wants to avoid going to a ‘wear something pink’ party might be tempted to emulate Bertie in the first episode when he receives an invitation from the adoring Angela. Then comes the occasion when Bertie tries – unsuccessfully as you might expect – to be polite for a whole day.
Next we join Bertie as he accidentally adds his mum’s floral arrangement to the rubbish for collection; after all they did look practically dead. Serious trouble looms large so perhaps a substitute entry for the competition could save the day …

In Fetch! Bertie has a robot dog, Tiny, in tow, poor Whiffer’s status is relegated and both end up getting into all kinds of scrapes as a result. You’d expect nothing less. Then there comes an invitation to attend a garden party hosted by none other than Her Majesty the Queen. Now Bertie has to be on his very best behaviour but guess who the dogs that he offers to give their daily walks belongs to: it definitely isn’t the maid. After such an exclusive outing he’s sure to be on form for his cousin’s wedding where he’s to be a pageboy and even worse, wear a kilt …

Finally Trouble! – there’s a plethora of that for sure. First Bertie forgets he has a maths test and tries using a magic potion to make Miss Boot forget all about it; this of course doesn’t quite go to plan. Next he goes to a sleepover at Know-All Nick’s home: he’d rather sleep in a cave with vampire bats but nonetheless he is made to go. Is there perhaps a way Bertie could make this work for both boys? Finally in this hilarious collection, Bertie manages to teach Masher the school bully a lesson.

Scrapes galore, bad habits – of course – and emotions that all children will relate to; plus plethora of pricelessly funny illustrations: what more can a fun loving reader of a certain age possibly want?

The Offline Diaries / How to Hide an Alien

These are two stories about friendship and its challenges

The Offline Diaries
Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Presented mainly through the diaries of the main characters, Shanice and Ade both in Y8, this funny, fresh contemporary novel follows the ups and downs of the friendship of the two girls.

Ade is about to start at a new school; she has just been forced to move with her mother and sisters to be near her stepdad’s new job and he’s somebody she definitely doesn’t get on with. Shanice.something of a loner, has been at Archbishop Academy for a year, lives with her dad and irritating brother, and to help her cope with her mother’s death, has mostly been spending a fair bit of time at her dad’s salon where she loves to people watch. She has an older brother James who seems to get away with everything. The salon is where the two girls first meet; they appear to have a fair bit in common and decide to chat online.

Things go well at school too until Ade gets involved with the popular, mean, Double-A girls and Shanice feels increasingly left out. Meanwhile Ade attempts to juggle the friendships, but before long she realises she needs to make a decision: who is a real friend? And then what? …

Can Ade and Shanice’s powerful friendship survive if Shanice refuses to have anything to do with Ade: online doesn’t work, Shanice avoids personal contact with Ade; but could a letter help work things out?

This is a captivating and effective combination of diary entries and online chat that will resonate with readers around the age of the two main characters, both of whom are hugely likeable. There’s a feeling of authenticity about the entire thing: it’s relatively easy to make a friend but making up requires the ability to see things from another person’s perspective, and strength of character: these two girls with their distinctive voices, have the latter in bucketloads.

How to Hide an Alien
Karen McCombie
Little Tiger

Star Boy crashed into the school playground and thus the lives of Kiki and Wes in How to be a Human and is now named Stan.

After being on earth just ten days he’s trying hard to learn the rules of being human and understand about emotions, the latter being discouraged among his species. Kiki and Wes too are having to learn quickly – hiding and training an apprentice human’ is far from easy even with the help of Eddie, the owner of the Electrical Emporium. There’s an urgent need to be able to pass their alien pal off as human so that they can all go to the funfair that’s arriving very soon. Bothering Star Boy at the same time is that he’s started experiencing pings and pangs. Equally those electrical surges are hard to hide first from Kiki’s dad but soon they’re causing a growing problem for Wes and Kiki as they create electrical disturbances all across town.

Add to all that, the family situations of Kiki and Wes continue to be challenging, so that makes three characters struggling to find where they belong in this world. But then by accident Star Boy channels his true form onto the interactive whiteboard, not only in Wes’s class but that in every single classroom at Riverside Academy.’ How much of a catastrophe have I caused? he wonders. The school is temporarily closed for starters. Time for some breathing exercises to calm things down a bit.

Before long though come reports of an alien sighting, trending on Instagram and soon Star Boy has gone viral. Another possibility raises its head too: is Star Boy being tracked from whence he came?
Now friendship, empathy and all they mean, are even more crucial than ever if Kiki and Wes are to keep their friend safe. Can Kiki’s mum do anything to help?

Told with gentle humour, this is another totally gripping story that I read in a single sitting: it could be read as a stand alone but it’s even better if you’ve already read How to be a Human.

Fish, Llamas and a Visit to the Zoo

1 2 3 Fish in the Sea
Luna Parks, illustrated by Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

There’s tactile fun along with the counting and number recognition between the covers of this brightly coloured, textured, rhyming board book. We start with one three coloured little fishy swimming in the ocean, that one meets a speedy friend, and then another. The three explore inside a cave where they meet fishy number four, followed soon after as they dash around by fishy number 5. But then as they swim 5 abreast a scary shark gives chase. Time to hide little fishes …

Be Calmer, Llama!
Rosamund Lloyd and Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

In her rhyming, counting down narrative, Rosamund Lloyd starts with five llamas frenetically rushing around. They decide that it’s time to slow down for that way lies more greater happiness so they hope. Each one finds a different way to become calmer: the first does so by means of water, the next gives himself a bit of self-love, leaving three giddy creatures. A wise one does some relaxing exercises, leaving two females; one undertakes some deep exhalations and as the last is anticipating some solo relaxation, back bounce the others. I wonder what happens …
Counting fun set against Gareth Lucas’ five calm-inducing natural backgrounds, each bursting with wildlife that adults and toddlers can talk about together, in addition to trying out some of the llamas’ ways to slow down.

Not really a board book but offering a wealth of language possibilities is

Lola Loves Animals
Imapla
minedition

In this wordless picture book illustrated with brightly coloured digital art, readers join young Lola and her mum on a trip to the zoo. Its clever concertina construction shows the red path they take against a white background on the walk to the zoo and as Lola enjoys her encounters with in turn an elephant, a gorilla, a moose, giraffes and a hippo. (I love the changing emotions on the faces of the characters). Her toy duck meanwhile enjoys making a new friend. 

During this time the weather has changed from sunny to rainy, and as they head homewards, it’s dark.

At the end is a lift the flap door; this gives readers entry to the second part of Lola’s adventure on the other side of the page. Here, a black background shows her dream of flying through the air and having an exciting adventure with the animals she met at the zoo.

The clever accordion fold means that the book stands up easily enabling it to act as a backdrop for a child’s imaginative play (thus fulfilling the cover boast: ‘Book & Playset in one!’) There’s a wealth of storytelling potential between the covers of this clever book, especially if you add some small world characters and objects.

The Upside Down Detective Agency

The Upside Down Detective Agency
Ellie Hattie and Brendan Kearney
Little Tiger

Super sleuthing sloths, Stella and Stan are so alike that only the very smartest can tell who is who. They’re in their Super Sleuth HQ one day when there’s a loud knocking on the door. It’s famous racing car driver Lady Veronica Velocity Speed announcing woefully that somebody has stolen the diamond warp drive from her car and without it there’s no chance she’ll win The Big Race to be held that very day.

Oh woe! Oh disaster. There’s no time to lose: Stella and Stan spring into action immediately but they’re going to need assistance from we eagle-eyed readers if the case is to be cracked quickly.

So begins Ellie Hattie and Brendan Kearney’s smashing interactive picture book that takes the sleuths, Lady V. and readers on a break-neck dash. Well maybe not exactly; there just might need to be the odd stop for a tasty snack before examining the racing car, her residence and workshop for clues.

Pretty quickly the sleuths are onto the thief’s identity: seemingly a rascally rodent has gone rogue but having identified the criminal, catching him is another matter.

The race is on – literally; but who will cross the finish line first? That is the vital question.

A mystery for readers to help solve that will not only be lots of fun, but with Brendan’s intricately detailed scenes with their clues aplenty, will also be great for developing observational and problem-solving skills in children.

The Dawn Seal

The Dawn Seal
Holly Webb, illustrated by David Dean
Little Tiger

Lissa, soon to be ten, is spending the summer holiday with her dad on his barge Rose Dawn, on the River Thames. She’s been looking forward to having some time with him but it doesn’t happen in the way she’d hoped. Yes, she loves the special room Dad has created for her and there’s so much wild life to see, but then on the third day of her holiday comes the news: Dad has taken some last minute work and so won’t be free for at least two weeks. What about the paddle-boarding he’d promised? Will that still go ahead? The answer is yes, but now all Dad will do is drop her off and then go back and work.

However, during her first paddle boarding lesson Lissa meets Alfie who lives on one of the houseboats; she also spots an animal swimming in the river that Alfie doesn’t think is a dog as it has no ears. In the next lesson she feels her board rocking unexpectedly and then finds herself face to face with a seal:

a seal that she gets the feeling needs her help; but she’s concerned she might merely scare away Pup as she names the creature.

Can Lissa help the seal to return to its home? Perhaps, with the assistance of Alfie

and another houseboat dweller, Rosy. To that end she does lots of research, spends a fair bit of time observing, both of which fill the void her father’s unexpected job has created.

Such is Holly Webb’s ability to draw readers into a story that as we follow Lissa’s efforts to ensure Pup returns safely to the Thames estuary, it feels as though we too are participating in both the rescue and the ups and downs of her family life, sharing her emotions every step of the way. David Dean’s black and white illustrations certainly heighten the feelings of loneliness, concern, empathy, disappointment, determination and delight during the drama. I’m sure KS2 readers will be swept away, loving every moment of this heartwarming tale. It would also be a lovely class read aloud.

Strong

Strong
Clara Anganuzzi
Little Tiger

This lovely celebration of unashamedly being yourself stars a dragon named Maurice. No, he’s not tough, powerful and given to snarling and growling like his fellow dragons; far from it. Maurice is gentle, quiet and small, and an adorer of flowers. These he seeks out at every opportunity, fashioning them into wondrous floral arrangements. Other dragons have no time for such activities; they far prefer fire breathing and competitions of strength. Indeed Maurice has a brother that is a champion as these skills.

Now though, Maurice too is entering a dragons only contest and hoping to create some of his splendiferous hibiscus flowers. However that’s not what happens when it comes to his turn to throw a flame; nor does he impress with magnificent horns and ferocious teeth.

It’s no use, thinks a dejected Maurice as he lies down in the gentle rain, I just don’t fit in here.

As the storm clouds gather and it’s time for the competition’s final round – the gold treasure hunt – Maurice wants to delay, but brother Gruff is determined to defend his title immediately and off he soars into he clouds. However the storm continues to rage and the other dragons start to worry about Gruff’s failure to return. Maurice ponders and puts forward an idea. Can it possibly work though? To his fellow dragons, he doesn’t appear to be doing very much to help his injured sibling.

Finally however, they start to see Maurice in a completely new light and as for Maurice, he comes at last to a realisation about himself: he’s always been strong and his strength comes from being true to himself; delectably different and proud so to be.

Clara Anganuzzi’s portrayal of the changing feelings both of Maurice and the other dragons sweep readers along in the gentle dragon’s flight towards self understanding.


You Can Be A Supercat / Vehicles

You Can Be A Supercat
Rosamund Lloyd and Chris Dickason
Little Tiger

Here’s a rhyming narrative that, together with fun feline scenes, invites little ones to participate in some role play. I’m sure small human would-be superheroes will love the opportunity to emulate wonder kitty Supercat as she whizzes around smiling at everyone and sporting her snazzy underpants, cloak and funky purple mask (there’s even one of those tucked inside the front cover for the little reader to wear) and performing acts of kindness as she goes. She’s always ready to offer help or invite a lonely person she spies to play with her, and despite not having lots of toys Supercat is more than willing to share those she has.

When it comes to a vocal rendition, this wonder kitty will sing with gusto and assuredly bring on a laugh as she performs with her feline flair. What youngster would want to turn down the chance to be a Supercat just like her; for sure it’ll make those who seize the opportunity feel good inside.

Vehicles
OKIDOKID, illustrated by Liuna Viradi
Little Tiger

This lift-the-flap book uses all kinds of means of getting around to present and explore five pairs of opposites. Thus a tricycle goes slow whereas a train moves fast; a submarine dives down low but a hot air balloon drifts high up in the sky; as she moves a pedal cyclist is quiet, on the other hand a motorcyclist’s vehicle is noisy.

There’s a small yacht sailing on the waves and there’s also a big steamboat and finally, the pink van is empty but the larger van has a full load. The book becomes interactive when little ones open the flap on each recto but adults can instigate many more interactions. For instance they might ask a child, “where do you think the train is going to?”; “how many passengers can you count?” and so on – there are numerous possibilities herein that are presented in Liuna Viradi’s bold, bright stylised illustrations

Tickle!, Roar and Embrace Nature with Board Books

Tickle!
Amelia Hepworth and Jorge Martín
Little Tiger

Little ones will need their fingers at the ready to help the creatures in this lift-the-flap board book wherein Moose has set himself up as the cookie to crack in a tickling contest. An assortment of animals – teams and individuals – try their luck at making the antlered animal laugh using their paws, (team Beaver), an array of tail feathers – that’s the proud peacock, then in turn, gorilla, octopus with an abundance of tickling potential

and finally, in the nick of time, a small child. Now maybe he can find Moose’s weak spot …
There’s so much to enjoy in this story told through Jorge Martįn’s droll visuals, the humorous speech bubbles, the sign (watch carefully what happens to that as the contest proceeds) and the surprise sound hidden beneath the final flap. A hoot from start to finish this.

Look, it’s ROAR ROAR Lion
Camilla Reid and Clare Youngs
Nosy Crow

This is the first in a fun-filled lift-the-flap board book series with a repeat pattern narrative written by Camilla Reid and striking collage illustrations, each with a decorative foil highlight element, by Clare Youngs. In turn Camilla introduces Clip Clop Zebra, Ooo Ooo Monkey,

Munch Munch Hippo and the titular Lion. Hidden behind four of the five felt flaps are mini beasts of which the text asks, ‘But can you see the … ?’ while the final spread recaps the creatures’ sounds and then asks ‘But what do YOU say?’ and when the flap is lowered a surprise, shiny mirror is revealed into which tinies will love to make their very own sound.
Interactive fun and offering just the kind of experiences to help develop that all important books are fun message in the very youngest.

100 First Nature Words
Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow

In the same series as 100 First Words and 100 First Words: City, this large format board book has two large flaps to explore on each double spread.The first has a Garden theme, the second shows Seaside themed objects large and small; in the third little ones visit the Countryside,

the fourth has a Forest setting. Next comes a Jungle spread, followed by one rather oddly entitled ‘Cold’ and the final pages are devoted to the Seasons, two per page.
Tinies will certainly have fun looking at each one, naming all the items in Edward Underwood’s bold, bright pictures, revealing the characters – human, animal or plant – hidden behind the shaped flaps. Highly engaging, lots of fun and with great learning potential, this is a super book for developing vocabulary and getting little ones talking about the natural world.

New Baby

New Baby
Sarah Shaffi & Isabel Otter, illustrated by Lucy Farfort
Little Tiger

Young, lively twins, Bilal and Sofia eagerly anticipate the arrival of what Bilal calls a “bean in her tummy” and his sister “an apple pip”. Bilal talks of sharing his favourite animals while Sofia says she’ll show the babe how to make rockets. By winter, the Ammi’s tummy has grown considerably and she tires easily so although Baba urges gentleness the children find it hard to understand why there’s a need for her frequent snoozes. Teamwork is crucial at this time is the response from Baba.

The following morning he greets the twins with the news that the birth is imminent so their parents are off to the hospital and reassures them that Grandma and Grandpa will look after them in their absence.

Now the twins focus is on whether the new sibling will be a boy or a girl though Grandpa insists that is not an important issue. Next day the twins meet their new baby brother, Farhan, whose name their mother says means happiness and laughter.

Inevitably things at home change, for the twins now have to share their Ammi and Baba with another person and sharing is more difficult than they’d expected. Most days have their ups and downs

and reminders of teamwork are made. Then the twins put their heads together and come up with an idea: I wonder what they’re planning to do …

What a smashing family both authors and illustrator have created in this warm, reassuring and affirming story: they present so well the gamut of emotions, from elation to exhaustion, various members of the family experience both before and after the birth of the baby. A lovely book to share, especially with young children in a situation similar to that of the twins.

Eye Spy / Bugs

These are two picture books that celebrate the natural world: thanks to Scallywag Press and Little Tiger for sending them for review

Eye Spy
Ruth Brown
Scallywag Press

With her stunningly beautiful scenes and playful rhyming, riddling text, Ruth Brown provides readers and listeners with an altogether different I spy experience that begins at sunrise and ends at sundown with the appearance of the moon in the dark night sky. In all there are a dozen riddles to solve and the same number of objects from the natural world to find hidden in plain sight on the full page illustration on each recto.

Every nature scene is a delight – a veritable visual feast at every turn of the page -and some of the hidden things are much more tricky to find than others, such is the wealth of detail and clever use of colour in each one, be it the wheat field, the verdant meadow,

the stone wall, the autumnal bracken or the close up view of the base of a tree, to name just some of the sights we’re treated to.

No matter though, for the answer to each riddle is given on the following page.
This is a book to treasure and return to time and again: even when you can find all the hidden items there is SO much to see and be awed by in Ruth’s wonderful works of art.

Bugs
Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In a rhyming narrative Patricia Hegarty takes readers and listeners through the year focussing on happenings in the natural world. These are shown in Britta’s bold, scenes that take us close up to a wealth of minibeasts and the greenery on which they land, rest, crawl and sometimes nibble
We see an abundance of new life in the springtime, be it day or night; then come the summer, changes are afoot: the caterpillar pupates and we see a chrysalis hanging from a tree branch.

Turn the page and it’s revealed what has emerged among the richly hued flowers that have burst forth. Now in the sun Ladybird needs to be extra alert for fear of becoming a tasty tidbit for a hungry bird whereas summer nights are all aglow with fireflies flitting to and fro.

Autumn brings dew and plenty of bees are still busy collecting pollen while grasshoppers chirp and leap among the turning leaves and grasses. As the days grow ever colder heralding winter, it’s huddling and hibernation time until once again nature bursts forth once more and the cycle repeats itself.

Peeking through the holes in the die-cut pages allows youngsters to experience more fully the wealth of natural colours, greens especially, that Britta has used throughout her alluring artwork.

When Shadows Fall

When Shadows Fall
Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Natalie Sirett
Little Tiger

Massive in impact, – I often read right through a book I’m loving but I had to pause and set this aside and do some deep breathing several times as I read this intensely powerful work, so raw inside did the writing make me feel – and towards the end when I read what unfolded on 18th December I found myself unable to hold back my tears.

Using a combination of very powerful first person recounts, journal extracts, narrative verse (including that of a pair of ravens) Sita’s lyrical tale of love, loss, grief, forging connections is told from several viewpoints, but chiefly that of Kai. We also hear from Orla – she, like Kai lives in the high rise flats, Zak (from the big house on the other side of the wilderness), and later in the book, from Omid (Om). Om is a gifted artist and having gone through loss and trauma himself develops a special understanding of Kai who, by the time Om comes on the scene, has lost his much-loved baby sister Sula causing his family to fall apart. I can’t speak too highly of Natalie Sirett’s hauntingly evocative illustrations that are also interwoven into the story.

Kai, Orla and Zak grow up near an abandoned piece of wild ground, the Rec. where they unearth and restore a bothy. This is a kind of paradise when they’re young but it later becomes the place of Kai’s corruption; but not only that: it’s also the backdrop to incredible creativity by Om and Kai: a place that must be protected and saved from developers by the Greenlands Guardians.

Further adding to the amazing sense of place are Sula’s memorial tree, the nearby Tower, with its resident ravens and the school, with its protective railings.

Is it possible for Kai, who has left behind his childhood innocence and now seems on a path to self-destruction, to be pulled out of his Slough of Despond?

Ultimately those bonds of friendship, forged both in their childhood and later with the coming of Om, prove the more powerful and along with the creativity that Om sparks, lead to Kai’s salvation.

Including several sensitive topics – infant death, attempted suicide, drug abuse and gang culture – the author emphasises the importance of understanding the reasons for the choices made. With its wealth of life lessons, this is surely destined to become a modern classic. I’ll finish by quoting these wonderful words from the epilogue: ‘I take my pen back out of my pocket … to write the new beginning. As I do I’m blasted by the bright, sweet voice of a song thrush. I close my eyes, picturing the words that flow now from my pen as they sing through me.’

Sita Brahmachari’s storytelling has certainly sung through this reviewer; Natalie Sirett’s art too has sung through me. Awesome.

Endorsed by Amnesty International UK

Earth, Sea & Stars

Earth, Sea & Stars
Isabel Otter, illustrated by Ana Sender
Little Tiger

This anthology of twenty stories from ancient cultures takes readers on a journey around the world and back in time to when tales such as these would likely have been told among people sitting around a fire. A time when humankind’s respect for, and awe of, the natural world was greater than it is today.

From as far afield as Syria, Scotland and South Sudan, Nigeria and Norway to name just some of the places from which these stories have come, we encounter a life-saving baboon with a lesson to teach a farmer in a Swahili tale,

an armadillo that uses her knowledge of plants to outwit a fox in the Argentinian Pampas, an ant that comes to the aid of King Lion (from Myanmar) and discover how the people came to have light, warmth and power thanks to a spider’s ingenuity, a woodpecker’s strength and a young woman’s bravery (the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Flora feature prominently in The Flower Thief (Syria) that demonstrates the vital importance of stewardship; The Sky Garden – a Dreamtime tale; and from Tahiti comes a beautiful tale of a Banyan Tree with its amazing roots.

After the moving tellings themselves, Isabel Otter offers some background details, a spread of thought-provoking questions to consider (one per story) – great for classroom discussions, and a bibliography. Ana Sender’s stunning illustrations grace almost every spread of this collection that as well as being a joy to read and to share, is a reminder that wherever we are we should treat our precious planet and the living things thereon with the care it needs to survive and thrive.

Natural History Board Books

Who’s Hiding: In the Garden?
Pintachan and Amelia Hepworth
Little Tiger

Having lost her five babies, Mummy Snail needs help to find them. First she asks Frog and thanks to him, locates the first of her missing offspring. Following Mouse’s suggestion, she discovers baby number two and Puppy’s advice enables her to find the third. With two still in hiding along comes Butterfly as she approaches the strawberry plant. You can guess what’s beneath one of the juicy fruits … and that leaves just one. Now where can it be? …
With flaps for little fingers to manipulate in Pintachan’s bold, bright cut away spreads of the search, a simple narrative with speech bubbles and sounds coming from the baby snails to join in with, Amelia Hepworth’s countdown narrative provides plenty to engage little ones who participate in Mummy Snail’s hunt.

One Little Seed
Becky Davies and Charlotte Pepper
Little Tiger

It never ceases to amaze this adult reviewer how from one tiny seed, a lovely flower can grow, often indeed many, many beautiful flowers. It all depends on what kind of seed whether you get a single bloom or a multitude all blooming on one plant and we see both examples in Charlotte Pepper’s bright, alluring illustrations.
In her text for this biggish board book, Becky Davies’s engaging narrative certainly encourages young children to go outdoors with an adult, involve themselves in nature and use all their senses to investigate the flora, (along with the fauna and natural environment in general) around them,

preferably with the book to hand.
There’s a spread with information about how to grow your own flower from seed, and/or a bulb; another showing some of the delicious fruits and vegetables flowering plants produce; we visit a community garden and finally are reminded of the cycle of life in which every one of us, young and not so young can play a part. With a wealth of flaps to explore – several per spread – with further information – visual and verbal – beneath each, this book will one hopes, motivate little ones to be outdoor explorers.

The Tree Book
Hannah Alice
Nosy Crow

Illustrated by Hannah Alice, this large format book was produced in consultation with Simon Toomer, recently appointed Curator of Living Collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The sturdy, see-through pages contain a considerable amount of information written in a young child-friendly style. Interesting, fun and interactive, it introduces users to the inner workings of a tree.
The cut out, see-through pages allow you to ‘look inside’ each part of the tree – roots, trunk, branches and leaves – and see how it functions and grows. Each page presents a different tree-related topic such as new leaves, flowers and pollen, leaves and photosynthesis,

fruits and seeds, mighty minibeasts, underground roots of different types of trees.
The written narrative, with corresponding stylised but clear pictures, takes us through the four seasons and concludes with a look at the importance of caring for and perhaps planting new trees. Without these wonderful plants, none of us would have fresh oxygen to breath.
Walking in a place that has lots of trees is one of my favourite things to do, and I’d certainly suggest it’s never too early to start fostering a love of trees in children; this book could be a good place to start.

The Eyebrows of Doom

The Eyebrows of Doom
Steve Smallman and Miguel Ordóñez
Little Tiger

Keep alert as you go about your daily tasks for you never know if, like the bear Dave in Steve Smallman’s rhyming story, you might be next to be attacked by the titular hairy facial features (actually slugs).
Said eyebrows once in place upon the unsuspecting ursine character, unleash in him the desire to perpetrate a series of dastardly deeds, before departing to land upon Ron a young seagull. As he takes flight, Ron poop bombs the sunbathers on the beach and then little Molly becomes the next to have a visit from the eyebrows prompting her to give her grandfather a spine-chilling shock.

Meanwhile all is calm and peaceful at the zoo until along come those evil eyebrows whereupon chaos is let loose as the dastardly duo rush hither and thither before Dave appears broom in hand and sees them. Whereupon they seek a hiding place and in their haste select the trunk of Edna Elephant. Not a wise choice for they so discombobulate her that she sneezes them out all coated in snot. Yuck!

Then with a splash they enter the sea, their bothersome behaviour over once and for all; or is it? …

Steve’s bonkers tale is a fun read aloud, which, daft though it is, offers listeners plenty to ponder upon. A perusal of Miguel Ordóñez’s zany scenes of the unfolding drama provides no clues but are likely to cause giggles aplenty. I love the way the speech bubble dialogue between the slugs serves to move the story forward.

Coming Up For Air / Sisters of the Mist

Coming Up For Air
Lou Abercrombie
Little Tiger

When Coco has to move to the seaside town of Piscary where her mum grew up, she’s eager to make friends and learn more about the family her mum has kept from her. What she doesn’t expect is the resentment shown by the community and her mum’s secrets are certainly deep-rooted.

Staying with her reputedly brilliant biologist Uncle Henry who is struggling with ME, Coco is an aspiring film-maker and an excellent swimmer with as she discovers, a talent for freediving.

Within Piscary are factions: the residents born and bred in the town (Fishes), those who have bought property to live in (Cuckoos), and the ‘Zombies’ who come to spend the summer enjoying what the town offers. As Coco explores the rift between her mum, her family and her hometown, making an occasional friend along the way, she becomes more and more determined to bring the town together.

But then disaster strikes when she and ace swimmer/diver Leo and new friend Shiv investigate a cave that involves diving deep and swimming along a tunnel. Will it be a case of tragic history repeating itself or can Coco finally see herself as part of a proper family?

Lou Abercrombie’s powerful, gripping coming of age story is told from the viewpoint of Coco who intersperses her narrative with filmic directions, adding an unusual element to the book.

Sisters of the Mist
Marlyn Spaaij
Flying Eye Books

Frygea Forest is ancient and mysterious; trolls lurk and mischievous changelings scuttle around. It’s also the place on the edge of which three sisters go every summer to stay with their grandmother on her farm.

Kyra and Janna have been eagerly anticipating another chance to climb trees, toast marshmallows and play some silly games in the woods with their big sister Margot who will be starting senior school after the holidays. Things are different this year however. Margot is less enthusiastic about spending all her time with her siblings. But when she’s lured into the midst of the swampy woods by the phantom-like beings in the mist – the Fog Furies – a worried Kyra is determined to help her

and that means facing the frightful Hellhound. What’s actually happening is that on account of the mysterious forces, Margot is being transformed into a young adolescent.

Marlyn Spaaij’s cleverly conceived, dramatically illustrated graphic novel combines swirlingly strange fantasy elements with Margot’s coming of age and starting her periods, both these being aided by the Furies and her understanding grandmother. It’s a good one to give girls especially those around ten before those changes of growing up start to happen, especially as it shows that facing up to scary changes doesn’t have to mean leaving behind the power of the imagination.

Once Upon a Big Idea

Once Upon a Big Idea
James Carter and Margaux Carpentier
Little Tiger

What a wealth of playful language poet James Carter uses in his story of inventions large and small., all the outcomes of bright ideas generated by human brains. he tells how for example the plentiful supply of rocks and stones beneath the ground have been used to create tools, bricks and walls with which the pyramids were built.
Animals too are a rich source of materials; they provide meat for some, wool to make into clothing and much more, and their bones were also used in the fashioning of more tools.
Homes, bridges and boats often have wood in their construction but what invention has had the biggest impact on lives ever? James suggests it’s the wheel and I’d probably go along with that. I wonder how many things you can think of that include wheels in their design: if you’re a primary teacher you might try asking your class that question when you share the book.
What a wealth of creativity came as a result of sand, clay and fire … 

‘Fire we learnt, was elemental – / heating working, smelting metal.’ we read; while modern materials – rubber, concrete, nylon and plastic have changed our lives, not always for the better. 

Finally, readers are reminded of the importance of recycling and reusing in James’ text as well as through Margaux Carpentier’s arresting visuals. Don’t forget to read the concluding four-letter acrostic.
Rich in STEAM classroom potential, this is a picture book to inspire young inventors of the future.

This Girl Can Do Anything / Sometimes: A Book of Feelings

This Girl Can Do Anything
Stephanie Stansbie and Hazel Quintanilla
Little Tiger

Meet young Ruby, strong-willed, knowing exactly what she wants and determined to do things her way.: in short, she’s unstoppable. Yet despite her toughness and inner-strength, there are times when she allows just a little bit of softness to seep through.

Of course not everything goes right straightaway, but with encouragement from her mum, Ruby is always prepared to have another go.

Her energy is boundless yet come the end of the day, despite what our protagonist says about not feeling tired, at bedtime, Ruby is ready for something special from her mum and dad.
For sure Ruby is a force to be reckoned with, unafraid to speak out about what she wants to do; however she does have a soft-centre that occasionally, she lets us enjoy a taste of too.
I love the way, illustrator Hazel Quintanilla uses a different colour background for each spread.
From the same author is:

Sometimes: A Book of Feelings
Stephanie Stansbie and Elisa Paganelli
Little Tiger

Stephanie Stansbie adopts a rhyming narrative to explore emotions, as we follow a sister and brother through a single day beside the seaside. It’s a day full of ups and downs: occasionally the dominant feeling is one of darkness and fear, but that can be dispelled by a brave leap; likewise disappointment and boredom can be overcome, perhaps by doing something active – dancing.

After presenting other feelings of the less desirable kind – anger, sadness 

and loneliness too, the mood turns much more upbeat as we see the boy and girl exhibiting kindness and forgiveness which dispel those bad feelings, allowing them to be replaced by a sense of peace, contentment and calm. With equanimity prevailing, brother and sister are ready to return to the family home, safe in the knowledge that once there, somebody will be waiting to show them the most important feeling of all: love.

With Elisa Paganelli’s expressive scenes of the children’s highs and lows to complement Stephanie’s words, this book offers a helpful starting point for exploring emotions with young children either at home or in a foundation stage/KS1 classroom.

Every Cloud / You’re Not the Boss of Me

Every Cloud
Ros Roberts
Little Tiger

Moving from primary to secondary school is a big change for everyone, but nothing is going right for eleven year old Amy. She’s already had to move house and that means she’s no longer in the catchment area of the secondary school her best friends will be going to. Moreover with Amy’s supposed best friend Cassie being unaccountably mean and Pop’s dementia getting worse, so much so that she and her Mum are to spend the holidays on the other side of town with Pops and Gran. Things can’t really get any worse.

However, to Amy’s surprise, living across the road from her grandparents is Jay a quiet, kind boy from her primary school who is going to her designated secondary school. Pops confuses him with his erstwhile best friend Spinney whom he hasn’t seen for many years and the two of them start playing shove ha’penny together.

As a friendship develops between Jay and Amy, she discovers that friendship can mean much more than she originally realised: having somebody you’re comfortable talking to, someone who listens attentively, is just as vital, maybe more so, than any other quality.

During her stay with Gran and Pops, a lot of surprising things happen and towards the end of the holiday Amy has an important decision to make: one that will affect the next stage of her life. How will she respond?

Exploring the importance of family, friendship and growing up, this empathetic story will appeal particularly to those readers around the same age as Amy.

You’re Not the Boss of Me
Catherine Wilkins
Nosy Crow

Loud and proud, positive but far from perfect, Amy Miller truly is a force to be reckoned with.
When the lower school comedy show is announced, she signs up immediately; she can’t wait to start writing some sketches; but then their drama teacher puts Harry in charge. Initially Amy doesn’t understand why he blocks her writing submissions and is extremely unpleasant towards her. She thinks that he just doesn’t like her but then she sees other girls also being sidelined and realises it’s more than that. Harry is being sexist, her elder sister, Caz informs Amy. Moreover, Mrs Hague who appointed Harry her shadow director, won’t listen to anything Amy says about her treatment. Fortunately Caz provides Amy with the information she needs to show how unfair the planning and organising of the revue really is, preparing her to do battle to fight for her rights.

Meanwhile at home Amy’s determined efforts to make life for her entire family better, have the completely opposite effect; the same is true, when she does likewise for school friends.
On a more positive note, Amy begins to forge a new friendship with Lexi who becomes her musical collaborator for the show. Anil too (her erstwhile best friend) also steps up to the mark, but then declines to own his part in Amy’s plan.

By the end of this laugh out loud story, Amy has learned a fair bit about herself, not least concerning her misguided helpfulness both at home and with best pals Mai and Sadie; she also finds out more about Anil and gains an insight into Harry’s behaviour.

Showing that everyone has the right to demonstrate their passions in a way that feels right for them, Catherine Wilkins’ brilliantly observed tale of determination and drama in the face of sexism and misogyny, is a great one for older readers.

A Quartet of Board Books

Bumblebee Grumblebee
David Elliot
Gecko Press

Brilliantly playful is David Elliot’s sequence of rhyming scenarios. We see, among others, an elephant donning dance gear, hence elephant balletphant; there’s a rhinoceros dropping a yummy ice cream cone and becoming crynocerus; pelican rushing to put its botty on a potty – pelican smellican; and when the bumblebee breaks its pull-along toy it becomes grumblebee. Last of all comes turtle – now what could the grinning creature be about to do …
This is just the kind of book to encourage very young children to delight in hearing and creating language and adult sharers will have fun as they read it aloud be that at home or in an early years setting.

How To Say Hello
Sophie Beer
Little Tiger

At the start of the pandemic people had to look for alternative ways to greet one another rather than with a hug or a kiss. Those are two of the ways illustrated in this board book; however some of the others – elbow bumping, smiling, fist bumping, waving would have been acceptable even before restrictions were lifted. How lovely it is to be able once again to give somebody a high five, a cuddle, to greet somebody with the offer of a snack, all of which Sophie Beer portrays in her latest inclusive book for adults to share with toddlers: there’s plenty of fun detail to enjoy in each inviting spread, while so doing.

Sing A Song Of Kindness
Becky Davies and Ciara Ni Dhuinn
Little Tiger

‘Sing a song of kindness, / a pocket full of joy. / Share a slice of friendship /with every girl and boy.’ That’s the first verse of the title song in this board book for which Becky Davies has adapted the words of ten favourite nursery rhymes and songs so that each one offers ideas of friendship, kindness, consideration or compassion.
Each one is illustrated by Ciara Ni Dhuinn who uses images of plants and animals to create gorgeous scenes that offer adult sharers and their little ones plenty to pause and talk about as they sing their way through this book, which is best kept until children are familiar with the originals.

Thank You, Little Rabbit
illustrated by Michelle Carlslund
Happy Yak

It looks as though Little Rabbit is going to have a busy day. As she wanders in the woods she notices her friend Little Squirrel is distressed. He’s hungry and unable to find food but Little Rabbit directs him to search in just the right place (little ones can assist by pulling the ribbon tab) to find a rich source of nuts. She also comes to the aid of Mama Goose and her little ones; they’re lost on their way to warmer climes for the winter. Little Frog has become separated from his friends and Little Rabbit offers a comforting hug and points them out. The result of all that helping is a lot of happy friends and a Little Rabbit who receives a big hug from a parent rabbit.

Little humans should certainly feel part of the action as they manipulate the tabs to reveal the outcomes of Little Rabbit’s helpfulness depicted in Michelle Carlslund’s empathetic illustrations as the story is read aloud.

Goodbye Bear

Goodbye Bear
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger

Beaver and Mole are heartbroken at the loss of their dear friend, Bear. They offer gentle support and comfort to one another as they experience a gamut of emotions including sadness, anger, numbness and sometimes think they can hear Bear’s voice.

The seasons change and with Spring almost upon them, Beaver and Mole decide to pay a visit to Bear’s treehouse. “ … The woods will be full of snowdrops. Bear loved snowdrops,” Mole says as they head off through the woods.

Once outside they discover Bear’s ladder and boxes of nails and decide to put up the ladder and go inside. “Bear loved us, Mole says, “and he wouldn’t mind in the slightest.” What they discover inside makes the two decide to finish the treehouse that Bear had started and invite all their friends to come and assist with the project.

As they work, the animals take turns to share their fond memories of Bear, finding joy in so doing, as well as in their joint project.

With the task nearing completion Mouse finds finds an old painting and then finally as they sit together celebrating Bear and sharing cake they find out that their friend had been planning an awesome surprise for them. It’s one they can always treasure, just like their memories.

This is such a beautiful, sensitively written and illustrated book. Jane’s illustrations chronicles the passage of time through the changing seasons, while also showing that although some of their feelings such as anger will dissipate over the months, their fond feelings remain constant. The sharing of grief helps ease the pain of loss and makes remembering so much more joyful.  

A wonderful story to read together as a family or with a KS1 class.

The Story Shop: Blast Off! / Dirty Bertie: Poop!

These are two young fiction titles from the Stripes imprint of Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

The Story Shop: Blast Off!
Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal

The Story Shop – now there’s an irresistible name to give a place selling stories, but if that isn’t enough to lure in customers, then surely the idea that this particular establishment run by shopkeeper Wilbur and Fred Ferret his assistant, sells stories you can actually BE in with characters you can meet, should be irresistible. Moreover they have a huge stock of plots and props just waiting for customers.
On the particular day the story starts, the first customer to enter is a rather boastful mouse. Said mouse knows just what he wants, demanding “Something out of this world”. Then it’s time for the story pot to appear, and the ingredients to be added. With that task duly done, and an important reminder given to Mouse, WHOOSH! POP! the adventure begins. In no time at all Mouse, together with Fred, find themselves on the moon, whereupon a certain rodent very quickly lands himself in a whole lot of trouble with the resident aliens in a very cheesy environment. However having managed to get away from that particular whiffy situation, largely thanks to Fred’s help, Mouse quickly discovers planets with other kinds of aliens. On the Planet of Games he recklessly bets his tail on a game of Tiddlywonks with Phoebe FairPlay as his opponent. Will he, or will he not, end up tailless.

In the third of the linked adventures complete chaos ensues when a certain Mouse lands on Planet Cog. Can order be restored and even more important will the two space adventurers manage to return safely to the Story Shop?

Bursting with fun and humour, and a wonderful celebration of the power of the imagination, this first of a new series, full of smashing illustrations, is spot on for emergent readers.

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

Is there no end to Dirty Bertie’s misdemeanours? Ideal for those fairly new to chapter books here are three further episodes. The first relates what happens when the zealous park-keeper, he who has recently erected new signs, bans him and Whiffler from the park on account of the pongy deposits his pooch has supposedly left on the grass. Could it perhaps be a case of mistaken identity …
In the second chapter there’s more mistaken identity only of the human variety this time. This happens when Bertie tries his level best to get his unfavourite class teacher, Miss Boot, an award for excellence in education and in so doing see her promoted out of his school.

The trouble is that the arrival of the judge pretty much coincides with that of another visitor.
Finally – well not actually finally as we know Bertie will be back – he manages to get himself on a film set in the role of an extra: what could possibly go wrong?

Splendid shenanigans as ever when this young lad is involved, and hilariously illustrated with Alan MacDonald’s plentiful line drawings.

Stick Boy and the Rise of the Robots

Stick Boy and the Rise of the Robots
Paul Coomey
Little Tiger

Strange things are again happening in Little Town and it’s all on account of the super new gadget given to all residents by Baron Ben. Called the HeadBox, it is according to the Baron, “a marvel of modern technology.”

Within a couple of days everybody is plugged in to their amazing techno thrills, or rather everybody except Stick Boy and that’s because the HeadBox just won’t fit over his different shaped head. So that ‘one size fits all’ claim. isn’t one hundred per cent accurate. In addition, the megalomaniac has been elected Mayor of the town, electronically of course.

Now, feeling isolated both in class and at home, the already suspicious Stick Boy gets on the case. His investigations soon see him discovering a secret underground tunnel that leads him to a cavern full of robots. Looks like a take over of the town is indicated.

However, Stick’s pals Ekam, Milo and Nick are so busy playing Battle Racers that it looks like he’s going to have to go it alone.

Then unexpectedly he comes upon somebody who shares his passion for hot chocolate and biscuits.
Can she help Stick persuade the other Mystery Mates to set aside those techno games and join them in saving their home town?

One final consideration: when is a secret library not a secret library? To discover the answer, get hold of a copy of the book.

Existing Stick Boy enthusiasts will wholeheartedly welcome his return and he and his friends should win lots more followers with this latest episode.

The Tiger Who Came For Dinner / The Littlest Elephant

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

In this fourth story to feature Wolf, Hotpot the lamb and their crocodile, Omelette, the friends are playing their favourite game of fetch when instead of a stick, Omelette brings back a tiny, soggy lost tiger. Hotpot is keen to keep the little thing but Wolf shakes his head “ … little tiger’s family must live further up the river. We have to take her home,” he says.
Next day off they go and on the way they encounter other animals, all of which think the little cub is a delight.

Omelette however, is not sure and becomes even less so as their journey continues; moreover he is able to recognise crocodile tears.

The following morning the group reaches a cottage – it’s the tiger cub’s home at last – and the little cub had a tricky plan tucked in his fur all the time. Can anybody save the day?

As with previous titles in the series, the importance of friendship is key. Steve and Joelle imbue the characters with warmth and oodles of personality and those already familiar with the other books will gobble up this one; however it matters little if you start here: this witty tale still works as a smashing read aloud.

The Littlest Elephant
Kate Read
Two Hoots

Having just learned to swim, such is Ellie the littlest elephant’s enthusiasm that in her haste to demonstrate her new skill, she charges off to the pool to be first in the water. On the way though, she dislodges chameleon, frightens the frogs, disturbs the monkeys’ mangoes scattering them far and wide, upsets the minibeasts and the birds,

stamps on the tiger’s tail and almost squishes a little mouse. Only then does she stop and pay heed to their warning cries to slow down and watch where she’s going. Time for some apologies realises Ellie, and with them duly accepted, all the animals head off to the swim together, with the littlest pachyderm being mindful of the wise words her new friends have spoken, until they eventually reach the pool.

Now to make the biggest splash EVER!

Kate Read captures Ellie elephant’s excitement beautifully in her bold, bright mixed media illustrations while at the same time portraying the feelings of creatures she encounters on her charge through the jungle equally well. Her story reminds youngsters – indeed all of us – of the the need to slow down sometimes, to be mindful of others , and to show empathy, consideration and kindness towards them; important lessons delivered unobtrusively in a fun picturebook.

The Hotel For Bugs

The Hotel For Bugs
Suzy Senior and Leire Martín
Little Tiger

The excitement is huge when the brand new, absolutely fabulous Hotel for Bugs opens its doors for business. In surge the masses of mini beasts eager to sample the tasty treats on offer at the buffet and the fancy facilities such as the spa and club. Perfect for a relaxing holiday.
Then, into the lobby slides a shiny, squishy and blobby slug, leaving a trail of glittering slime in its wake and asking to book a room. More than a tad alarmed, the manager tells the prospective client that the hotel is already full and that anyway, slugs are not welcome.

Nonplussed, out glides said slug leaving a relieved manager and a crowd of onlookers that have gathered to watch the proceedings.

However, it takes just one tiny little bug to speak out, demanding to know why the slug has been sent away. After all, starting with herself, every single one of their number could be thought of as ‘different’ in some way; and before long, the other bugs are contributing supportive comments, each pointing out (or otherwise making known) its own distinctive features.

Has the manager made an irreparable error in her treatment of the slug, or is there a way that the situation can be fixed for every single one of the creatures that entered the portals of the establishment that day?

Suzy Senior’s jaunty rhyming text together with Leire Martín’s brightly coloured creepy crawly characters portrayed with their idiosyncratic features, show the importance of inclusivity and that difference is something to embrace and celebrate rather than fear.

How to be a Hero: A Gathering of Giants / Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Smuggler’s Secret / Solve Your Own Mystery: The Time Thief

How to be a Hero: A Gathering of Giants
Cat Weldon, illustrated by Katie Kear
Macmillan Children’s Books

In the finale of Cat Weldon’s terrific trilogy, Whetstone and banished trainee Valkyrie Lotta are fugitives, now in hiding in Asgard. Whetstone is on a mission – to rescue his mum who, according to Thor, is being held, along with the second harp string, by the Frost Giants in Castle Utgard. It’s definitely time for him to work on becoming a proper hero, tough and fearless. Step forward Rhett the Bone-Breaker. But how many of Lotta’s plans is it going to take for them to succeed in outwitting Loki the trickster? They certainly won’t do it without encounters with treacherous trolls, indoctrinated Valkyries and an entire army of giants.

With Katie Kear’s illustrations helping to ramp up the drama, this fast-moving tale is full of thrills and a fair few spills too, plus a generous scattering of insults adding to the hilarity. This will keep readers on the edge of their seats right through to the cup’s final poetic offering. So gripped was I by the telling that after finishing the story late at night, I found myself back in the quest along with the heroic duo in my dream.

Readers who fancy sampling the sort of meal one of those giants might eat, should turn to the recipe adapted by Whetsone for spiced oat cakes. A tasty treat indeed.

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Smuggler’s Secret
Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa
Little Tiger

Zaiba and fellow members of the Snow Leopard Detective Agency have a new case to solve. There’s a school History Club trip to Chesil Bay involving an overnight stay. The children are told that divers have just discovered a priceless artefact from Assam among the wreckage of a ship and it’s currently in the safe-keeping of the local museum prior to being sent back to India. While there they’ll be able to witness the unveiling of the artefact and Ms Talbot challenges them to discover what it is before it’s revealed. Now that is just the kind of thing Zaiba, Poppy et al love.

No sooner are they on the train down to the coast than the intrigue starts: Zaiba notices a man replacing a magnifying glass in his briefcase and then she thinks she sees him on the boat trip out to the wreck and again leaving the theatre in the evening after the play they’re invited to watch. In fact he seems to pop up all over the place. What is he up to?

Next morning everyone is excited about the big reveal but then it’s discovered that the artefact has gone.Now Zaiba and co. really must ramp up the action. There are quite a few possible suspects and some leads to follow, but not much time to discover the culprit.

Embracing a controversial topic: the returning of precious artefacts to their countries of origin, once again Annabelle Sami keeps readers guessing right to the final pages of this story of teamwork and as with previous titles in the series, there are lively black and white illustrations by Daniela Sosa throughout.

Solve Your Own Mystery: The Time Thief
Gareth P. Jones, illustrated by Louise Forshaw
Little Tiger

Choose your own adventure books have long been popular but rather went out of fashion. Now with Gareth P. Jones’ new series of which this is the second, interactive tales are back for readers who may well be offspring of the original enthusiasts.

In this instance the scene is set in the opening pages: in the town of Haventry the Museum of Magical Objects and Precious Stones (MOPS for short) is putting on a time-travelling exhibition but its key feature, the Time Sponge, an object able to stop and start time for whoever squeezes it, has gone missing. Then in the role of main character, the reader must make the first decision: two choices are presented as to what to do next: interview suspect mermaids or go to the crime scene – in the company of Klaus Solstaag the yeti detective, of course.

With a fair number of potential suspects and a multitude of paths to choose from, none leading to a dead end, you will eventually reach one of three possible endings.

A fun and intriguing read for key stage two readers especially those who like to do a bit of detecting.

The Last Tiger

The Last Tiger
Becky Davies and Jennie Poh
Little Tiger

Climate change and destructive human actions are at the heart of this tale of Asha the tiger.

As the story opens, she and her family are living happily in a lush forest along with boars and other creatures. but little by little their environment changes. Sunny days become hotter and hotter and rainy ones, much wetter, so wet that the land is flooded, forcing the boars to leave the forest in search of other places to live. Tigers too disappear, and without the boars, food for the remaining tigers becomes extremely scarce.

Eventually Asha finds herself completely alone, save for the scent of humans. Yes, humans had come into the forest, bringing with them huge destructive machines that cut down all the trees.

As Asha creeps through the devastation the humans have left in their wake, she sees a flash of bright orange. Another tiger perhaps? But no, it’s an orangutan, but company at least. Can the two of them possibly find a new home somewhere else …

Tragic and poignant, this timely story looks at the plight of just one of the animal species endangered, due for the most part to human actions such as the deforestation we saw in Asha’s natural habitat.
Saving tigers from extinction means saving forests and there’s relevant information in the final pages of this book including the alarming fact that there are now less than 4,000 tigers left in the wild.

The Tower at the End of Time / Diary of an Accidental Witch: Flying High

The Tower at the End of Time
Amy Sparkes
Walker Books

Reformed pickpocket Nine, Eric the troll, wizard Flabbergast et al return for a second wonderful adventure that again mixes wit, magic, some nail-biting moments and occasional chaos.

Now the curse on the magical house has been lifted allowing the friends to travel between worlds, their first destination being The Wizarding Hopscotch Championship. It’s particularly important that Flabbergast attends the championships – he’s missed three years already and his worthiness is at stake. Moreover, the final prize for winning the event is a visit to The Tower at the End of Time, where one question can be asked!

There’s a problem though, for the house, being nervous about travelling again, is beset by an attack of the hiccups, which unsurprisingly upsets plans somewhat as with each HIC they bounce from one world to another till they finally reach those championships. More problems ensue when Flabbergast discovers that the hopscotch grid is aflame and he encounters many obstacles thereon, but negotiating it is the only way he can get the answer to his question.

In the end everything becomes a race against time, or rather gigantic sand-timers, with every contestant desperate to find an answer to their particular question. And what about Nine? She too has questions concerning who she really is and who left her that music box she treasures so much.

Hugely inventive and sparkling with excitement: primary readers with a penchant for high octane fantasy will jump at the chance to read this.

Diary of an Accidental Witch: Flying High
Perdita & Honor Cargill, illustrated by Kate Saunders
Little Tiger (Stripes Publishing)

With her first diary safely hidden away and her first half term at the School of Extraordinary under her belt, Bea Black starts a new one for this second book.
At home she’s still struggling to give sufficient time to her neighbour and close friend Ash who goes to an ordinary school..

With the Winter Solstice fast approaching, the main topic of conversation after the break is the forthcoming Grand Tournament and Bea finds herself a vice-sports captain. With the Go matches coming up, it’s even more important that she polishes up her broomstick skills. And then following a to do involving buns in town, headteacher Ms Sparks announces that in the hope of improving relations between the two schools, she is inviting the pupils from the Academy to participate in the Grand Tournament and that means no magic, no flying and definitely no Go after all. Indeed the event has now been renamed Sports Day.

Can the rift between the two establishments be healed? Then what about that egg or rather Egg, that Professor Age has given her to tend at home?

Honor Cargill’s smashing illustrations are sprinkled throughout and once again this is hugely engaging and lots of fun, with all the pupils having to deal with similar concerns and issues that readers themselves are likely experiencing.