Mr Leopard’s Bookshop / All the Wonderful Ways to Read

Mr Leopard’s Bookshop
Alexa Brown and Julia Christians

Sophie needs to buy a present for her very best pal, her pug puppy Boss but it’s rather late in the day so the shops are shutting. However there’s one that looks as though customers would still be welcome so she tries the door. Wow! She can hardly believe her eyes at the sight of shelves and stacks of books everywhere she looks. Then suddenly the shop’s manager emerges; it’s the great Mr Leopard. The surprise causes Sophie’s mum to fall flat, but Mr Leopard is a kindly soul and offers to help the girl immediately.

He starts piling up books and bringing them for Sophie to peruse but she’s disappointed: nothing has that special sparkle she wants for a present for Boss.

Undaunted, Mr Leopard draws back a curtain to reveal something very unexpected

When Sophie has got over her initial shock sufficiently to listen to the characters that address her, she spies a rug on which is a dog holding a pen: surely it can’t be, but yes …

It can only be in a magical place such as Mr Leopard’s Bookshop where such amazing things can happen; but that isn’t the end of the amazing events, for the very next day Sophie throws a birthday party for Boss but she finds herself playing host to rather more guests than she’d anticipated.

Providing surprise after surprise, Alexa Brown’s jolly rhyming text bounces along merrily making the book an enjoyable read aloud and Julia Christians’s wonderful scenes of Mr Leopard’s establishment are a bibliophiles delight – once they’ve got over seeing the kind of characters it attracts.

All the Wonderful Ways to Read
Laura Baker and Sandra de la Prada
Little Tiger

‘Each reader is different – each one unique!’ So says author Laura Baker early on in this rhyming exploration of reading styles and celebration of the power of books. A power that takes readers on journeys to places far and near and perhaps to fantastic new worlds. It’s possible to go anywhere at all so long as you have the right book to read. Books can empower the reader, help them solve a problem, help them find meaning in their own experiences or those of others: reading can completely transform a person’s life, Reading develops the imagination and connects us; and I suspect anyone reading this picture book would find examples of ways of connecting.

Some may even become authors and/or illustrators, like those we meet in Sandra de la Prada’s scene of a group of people creating pictures and that showing a queue of eager readers waiting for an author to sign copies of her book.

The crucial thing that emerges from Laura’s text is that what’s important isn’t so much what you read, where or how you read, or how fast or slowly you read, but that you DO read. There are books out there waiting for everyone to discover and love: this fun one included.

Wake Up, Trucks!

Wake Up, Trucks!
Jodie Parachini and Teresa Bellón
Little Tiger

A jaunty rhyming narrative and super bright scenes of a day in the life of a group of trucks and other construction vehicles: I can see this will be a hit with many small children.

We begin as, having feasted on a breakfast of fuel, the trucks trundle into life and honking as they go, make their way to the building site. There, the foreman awaits and the tugging and towing work gets going.

Each truck has a special role: there’s Dump Truck, carrier of heavy loads, Roller to smooth out the roads, the foundations pit is dug by Excavator and then little by little, Mixer does the filling. Next Loader carries wood for floors and some doors; humans fit the windows and to complete the building of one house, along comes Crane to top off the job with a roof.

Back in their yard at the end of the day, all the trucks are cleaned thoroughly and their engines allowed to cool right down. Definitely worth pointing out to all the truck enthusiastic young humans is that one of their number – a cement mixer – is plugged into an electrical charger.

Using a wealth of geometric shapes in her digital illustrations, Teresa Bellón’s vibrant scenes of those anthropomorphised vehicles provide plenty to explore and discuss.

Action-packed this surely is.

Super Poopers

Super Poopers
Alex Woolf and Isobel Lundie
Little Tiger

The topic of poo almost invariably raises interest in young readers and this book will surely do so with its humorous approach to those often whiffy bodily emanations. Before you turn your nose up though, consider this statement that concludes the author’s introduction: ‘In short, there seems to be no end to human and animal ingenuity when it comes to finding uses for poo’.
A fair bit of ingenuity is also presented between the covers of this collaboration between author Alex Woolf and illustrator Isobel Lundie.

They start by presenting a handful or two of the weirdest facts about creatures and their poop. Did you know for instance that a hippopotamus whirls its tail while pooing. The result being flying faeces (sometimes reaching as high as 10 metres) that can be used to mark their territory and to show off to the opposite sex. 

Imagine being a pitcher plant in the vicinity of a mountain tree shrew; said animals use pitcher plants as toilets, which is of mutual benefit: the plant receives nutrients in the poo and the shrew licks the plant’s nectar.

Child readers may well be aware that poo makes a fantastic fertiliser – there’s a spread on that topic herein – but how many are aware of some of the things it can be used to make. For instance there’s a company in Thailand aptly named Poo Poo Paper that uses elephant poo to make paper. Of course, the pong is removed during a process of boiling that also disinfects the pulp before it’s mixed with plant fibres, spread on mesh trays and left to bake in the sun. The result is paper. Apparently one elephant’s daily dung dump is sufficient for over 100 sheets of paper. 

There’s also a luxury coffee that uses beans collected from the poo of Asian palm civets and it’s said to cost way, way more than your usual cup of coffee. I don’t think I’ll be trying that though.

Covering twelve topics in all, Alex Woolf’s playful, punning text is both fascinating – yes really – and full of amazing information and includes such topics as diverse as ancient fossilised faeces and what it can teach us, and ways poo can or might be utilised to produce power for heating, lighting and even vehicle fuel. In keeping with the tone of the verbal content, Isobel Lundie’s bright, detailed visuals are appropriately amusing and the resulting combination is sure to produce giggles aplenty in readers.

The Story Shop: Dino Danger! / Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise

The Story Shop: Dino Danger!
Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal
Little Tiger

It’s always a treat to enter the Puddletown High Street establishment run by Wilbur and his ferret assistant, Fred. This unusual place sells stories but it’s not a bookshop, rather it sells stories you can actually be in. Dino Danger is the third in Tracey’s – if my experience is anything to go by – very popular series and offers three adventures, together with suitable costumes and characters, that are just waiting for a scaredy Bear to participate in.

Somewhat surprisingly, Fred and Wilbur suggest he dons a dinosaur outfit as does Fred who will accompany Bear. Our ursine character will definitely have to find a whole lot of courage if he’s to face a lot of prehistoric beasties, starting with a T.Rex and companions -Stegosaurus, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. Can he avoid ending up as lunch for the terrible tyrannosaurus? Perhaps if he can outplay Big T. in a game of crazy golf …

In the second episode Bear turns baby sitter for three mischievous little Triceratopses that are leading their teacher, not to mention Bear and Fred, on a merry dance, after which the latter need to make a hasty exit.

Story three sees the adventurers on the trail of the real Veggie Nibbler(s) with just three days to catch them or they could well end up popping endless amounts of pea pods at the dinos’ Famous Allotment Club.

With plenty of amusing black and white illustrations by Tony Neal to break up the text, these stories will please followers of the series and likely win lots of new fans for The Story Shop.

Also for newly independent readers and just out in paperback is:

Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise
Swapna Haddow and Alison Friend
Little Tiger

One of the first in the publisher’s short fiction series with full colour illustrations, the original hardcover was reviewed four years back on this blog.

Kind Crocodile / Who’s Hiding? On The Farm

Kind Crocodile
Leo Timmers
Gecko Press

Little does Crocodile know when he decides to leave his watery abode and go for a stroll that he’ll end up as an animal rescue service. First comes a mouse fleeing from a scary snake, closely followed by a warthog hotly pursued by a hyena; next is an impala chased by a cheetah and then a rhinoceros with a lion in pursuit. Crocodile sees off the chasers with some strategic and menacing GRRRRs and offers a safe haven to what becomes, with the addition of the heaviest animal, a surprised heap comprising rhino, impala, warthog and mouse each precariously balanced in a tower upon the kind croc’s back. This makes him let’s say, somewhat flattened, physically at least, as well as voiceless.

How will they see off that hungry lion now?

Happily teamwork comes to their rescue; but the last word (make that almost the last) is definitely that of Crocodile, which creates a moment of suspense before his final utterance. Then off they all go, the animal tower somewhat differently arranged.

With Timmers’ humorously expressive mixed media illustrations, simple patterned text and that fun plot twist, this a funny large-format board book to share with little ones.

Who’s Hiding? On The Farm
Little Tiger

When a little chick loses his mummy, he asks Pig to help him find her but they can’t do so without little readers’ assistance. Following Pig’s instructions, they can explore what’s hidden behind the flap on each spread. They will also discover several other little chicks that have tucked themselves away cheeping, and once located those too can help in the search.

With bright jolly art by Pintachan and cutaway pages of farm scenes with minibeasts too, a simple text that includes animal speech bubbles to join in with and a happy ending, there’s plenty to entertain little humans in this fun board book.

My Heart is a Poem

My Heart is a Poem
various authors, various illustrators
Little Tiger

Feelings come and go; most of us experience a plethora of them each day, some briefly, others are with us for longer. This collection of poems from twenty poets is an exploration of these emotions and the effects they have on us. Among the voices are those of Joseph Coelho, James Carter, Kate Wakeling, John Agard, Valerie Bloom and Coral Rumble. Some of the poems included are new to me, one such is Debjani Chatterjee’s No More … about finding a way to deal with a bully. It begins like this: ‘I knew the icy grip of fear, / I knew my heart beat like a drum, I felt a pounding in my ear / And courage crumbling in my tum.’ I suspect most of us have felt similarly troubled by fear of someone. The illustrator for this poem, Nabila Adani is also new to me.

No matter how you are feeling, as Elaine Laron says in No One Else, people can certainly tell you how to do almost anything; however you and only you own your feelings: ‘But no one else, no, no one else / Can tell you how you feel.’ Annalise Barber illustrated this one 

The boy in Nikki Grimes’ Stomp describes how having been subjected to a barrage of horrible words all day at school, ‘I Come home / feet about to bleed / from angry stomping. / “Boy!” says Mom. / “Quit making all that racket.” / But what does she expect / when, day after day, / haters sling words at me / like jagged stones / designed to split my skin’. He retreats to his room and takes up his journal, ‘and unload my hurt, my rage / ’til I can breathe again. / Letter by letter, / I rediscover / my power to decide / which words matter, / which words don’t, / and whose. / Calm, now, I remember: / I get to choose.’ Powerful for the boy; powerful too for the reader.

It’s interesting to consider the situations that cause a particular feeling to manifest itself and there are a wide variety presented in these poems. Coral Rumble’s Ache is the result of disappointment at never being picked to participate in a playground game: ‘But deep inside the pit of me, I ache an ache no one can see.’ So says the child who is always left alone standing by the fence.

Wherever you open the book, you are likely to find a poem that resonates with you and it will be illustrated by one of four fantastic artists whose visual images will be powerfully evocative of the emotion the poet has written about.

Brief biographies and photos of the featured poets and illustrators are presented at the end of the book, enabling the reader to feel connected with the creators.

A great book for the classroom but equally one for individuals to curl up with and ponder.

Outside / Mole’s Quiet Place

Inside and outside both feature large in these two Little Tiger picture books: thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

Bee Chuck

Essentially this is a retrospective look at that happened to everyday life during the lockdowns and how it has affected our appreciation of the great outdoors.

It starts before we were instructed to stay indoors, life was frantic and the two narrators of the book never had a minute to pause and take notice of the natural world especially.
Then, the first day of the enforced period at home turned out to be fun with hours and hours to bake cakes, chat on the phone and play on-screen games. Quickly the weather and nature were forgotten. Quickly too, those indoor pursuits got more and more boring.

However, the spin off was that without the continual rushing around, there was time to stop and really take notice of what was happening outside. Through the windows could be seen nature growing and thriving in the city: so why not try to create outside, inside – or almost inside. We see the two protagonists imagining and then creating window boxes, dangling bird feeders from tree branches and making pictures of visiting minibeasts; they even made a camp in the kitchen.

In due course, in stages the restrictions were lifted: simple outdoor activities like feeding the ducks became the highlight of the day. People rediscovered the joys of chatting face to face instead of on the phone, cycling was preferable to sitting in a car and physical activities outdoors were far more fun that on screen gaming.

When finally people could spend as much time outdoors as they wanted, our narrators (along with most of the population I suspect) have decided that their priorities have changed: outside fun in all weathers is way more pleasurable than staying in. Furthermore with wildlife now much more abundant in cities, has come the realisation that rather than overly tame nature, we can enjoy a slightly slower life, a vital part of which is cherishing the natural world.

Author/illustrator Bee Chuck’s love of nature shines through in the child-like illustrations throughout the book. Let’s hope Outside will instil that love in youngsters and the adults who share it with them, be that at home or in the classroom.

Mole’s Quiet Place
Jane Chapman

Mole loves his treehouse home that he shares with his friend Beaver; best of all he enjoys their evenings together, a time when they can remember their old friend, Bear. However with its welcoming lights and welcoming atmosphere the two frequently have their peaceful evenings interrupted by visitors eager to enjoy their hospitality.

One evening as Beaver enthuses about being able to accommodate so many in their large space, the less enthusiastic Mole has, despite the heavy rain, decided to go down to the lake for some peaceful time alone.

Before long an understanding Beaver discovers the whereabouts of his friend and the following day, all the treehouse pals get busy working on a new project, just for Mole. It’s something that enables her to enjoy tranquility in watery surroundings and perhaps remember Bear; and from there she realises just how alluring their treehouse home is to the other animals.

A gentle, yet powerful tale of finding somewhere to be yourself. With her instantly recognisable illustrations, Jane Chapman’s heartfelt story will resonate with both children and adult readers aloud.

Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door and the Magic Puppy / Star Friends: Mystic Forest

Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door and the Magic Puppy
Lola Morayo, illustrated by Cory Reid
Macmillan Children’s Books

In her latest magical adventure it’s not just Aziza who goes through her magic door; her brother visits the world of Shimmerton too. It happens shortly after Otis has been pleading with their parents to get them a dog despite the ban on flat dwellers keeping such pets in their homes. Almost immediately Aziza goes to her bedroom and sees that her fairy door is making those ticking sounds again. Suddenly the door opens and Aziza passes through, closely followed by her big brother, also pulled through by its golden beam.

The siblings arrive in Shimmerton to find the village fete is in full swing. Encouraged by Aziza’s fairy friend Peri to have a turn at the giant roulette wheel, Otis learns he has chosen the winning number and selects for his prize a puppy – a magical one. But Hainu as he names the pup is not as easy to handle as he anticipated though like most pups this one loves sticks.

Suddenly the midday bell rings heralding the unveiling of the ancient clock, a clock that represents spring and growth, without which nothing will grow. Horror of horrors! The three hands of the clock are gone and thanks to a rash action by the Gigglers, all three have returned to their places of origin. Aziza, Otis, Peri and Tiko must find them and they only have till sunset to do so.

They need to fix the clock before it’s too late.

With an abundance of magic, friendship, teamwork and a generous sprinkling of mischief this inclusive tale, inspired like the previous one by fairies and creatures from world mythology, will enchant new solo readers. Cory Reid’s quirky illustrations are a delight and the perfect fit for Lola Morayo’s telling.

Star Friends: Mystic Forest
Linda Chapman, illustrated by Kim Barnes
Little Tiger

I’ve not previously met the Star Friends, Maia et al, a group of children with a special secret: they have magical animal friends who help them learn magic and fight evil, some of it from the Shades.

In this book, Maia’s human friends Sita, Ionie and Lottie are excited about spending half term at a forest camp. They are hoping to learn all kinds of survival skills but Mrs Coates who has a farm on the forest edge is not at all happy about the arrival of campers, fearing they will upset her free-range chickens. Then strange things start happening. 

First the boots belonging to all those sharing Maia’s tent disappear and are later found in the stream where the boys went to collect water. Then the four girls discover the den they’d spent so long building the previous day has been completely destroyed. 

Add to that various objects are being moved from one place to another. Surely somebody isn’t trying to sabotage the camp, are they? If so, is it Mrs Coates or is it some kind of bad magic? No matter what or who, Maia and her friends are absolutely determined to find out and stop their trip being spoiled completely.

The author’s mix of magic, talking animals, strong friendship and problem solving works well and with the addition of Kim Barnes’ black and white illustrations, this addition to the adventure series with a difference, will appeal strongly to many newly independent readers whether or not they’ve read previous Star Friends books.

Diary of an Accidental Witch: Unexpected Guests / Super Happy Magic Forest and the Distant Desert

Diary of an Accidental Witch: Unexpected Guests
Perdita & Honor Cargill, illustrated by Katie Saunders
Little Tiger

It’s always a delight to be in the company of Bea Black and the first thing she does according this latest journal (after having a scrumptious tea out with her dad) is to attend the inaugural meeting of Finkelspark Club along with fellow founding members.

The following day though, the spring term at Little Spellshire School of Extraordinary Arts begins and Bea has other things on her mind: a history project, her allocated famous witch from the past being Minerva Moon; then there’s the visit from school inspectors who will not be impressed if they catch sight of anything at all magical going on. 

In addition, Bea has accidentally taken home what appears to be an ancient diary written by Minerva Moon, from Old Bertie’s bookshop and she can’t return it as the owner, Bertie, has gone away.

The good news is that Bea and her dad are going to stay in Little Spellshire but with all those things going on, one eleven year old witch has a lot to keep her busy, not least making sure her school isn’t closed down.

The series just gets better and better: this fourth book seems to have even more zany magical mayhem, humour and surprises than ever. It’s a sparkling delight for primary readers.

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Distant Desert
Matty Long
Oxford University Press

This fourth book in the Super Happy Magic Forest chapter series starts at the Gnome Tashwhisker exhibition where Tiddlywink the pixie accidentally gets trapped inside a cursed puzzle cube. Endeavours to free him are unsuccessful, leaving Blossom feeling more than a little guilty about fiddling with the cube. The only hope of freeing Tiddlywink, so says Gnome Tashwhisker’s Desert Diaries, is for the five heroes ie Herbert, Tiddlywink, Blossom, Twinkle and Trevor, to journey all the way to the Distant Desert and there to consult the all-knowing Almighty Oracle. This they must do before the sands of time run out. 

The journey, despite its length is the easy part, for when they reach the Oracle, it’s fast asleep. A Desert Diary entry tells them this: “only adventurers who have completed the Desert Trials and thus earned three trial gems are worthy of waking the Oracle.’ 

Is that a possibility for our heroes? Perhaps with help from the genie, if they can first reunite her with her magic lamp. Then there are still those particularly prickly cacti to contend with, 

as well as a recalcitrant magic carpet. This quest is certainly going to test the heroes to their limits

Super clever, super silly and super fun: as ever the madcap frolics of Matty Long’s forest dwelling characters are a treat for primary readers, not to mention this adult reviewer.

The Time Tider

The Time Tider
Sinéad O’Hart
Little Tiger

Time tiding – the art of locating and capturing a warp of unspent time lies at the heart of this fantastic book.

Constantly on the move, twelve year old Mara and her father Gabriel live in a battered old van, packed with glass vials and other strange items. This is how Mara’s life has always been, though she has never understood why. Her only bedroom is a bunk, she’s never been to school, or made any friends. It’s something to do with her father’s job, although Mara doesn’t know what that really is, though he often hurries off to secret meetings. On such occasions he returns with sufficient money for half a tank of petrol or a visit to a cafe; but what he’s traded she knows not. With their travelling lifestyle, often moving by night, the two are able to avoid those her father suspects are following them.

One morning having woken to find her father out, Mara comes across Gabriel in the middle of one of his meetings: the transaction she sees and what ensues immediately, trouble her deeply. She really HAS to know what her father actually does: after all, people ‘don’t just vanish do they?’ On his return she starts to question him but he tells her very little before their van is under attack. Telling his daughter to drive, Gabriel hastily gives her some instructions and jumps out.

Finding herself abandoned with his old bag in which is a handbook containing a strange set of instructions, ‘For the Attention of the Newly Appointed Time Tider’, it’s up to Mara to attempt to do as her father said, the first thing being to find someone called Lenny, of whom she has only a very vague recollection.

Then she encounters a boy called Jan who tells her that he knows Lenny but has bad news about the man and other things. The two become friends, Jan joins the search, which grows increasingly dangerous; but it’s hard to know who can be trusted so the pair rely largely on their instincts.

As the plot twists this way and that, the author poses a number of important questions for readers to consider about power and how it can corrupt, and the lengths one would go to for somebody you love. There’s also the issue of how isolating fear and grief can be with the result that your focus is on what you’ve lost at the expense of what you still have.

With Sinéad O’Hart’s skill at world building, the story is hugely exciting and compelling. Mara is such a credible character – hugely determined and despite her self-doubt, very capable.

I’ll say no more, rather I’ll leave you to ponder : If you could extend your life or that of a loved one, no matter how the possibility arose or the consequences for others, would you do so?

Hop, Hop! / One Little Egg

Both these titles are from Little Tiger: thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

Hop, Hop!
Isabel Otter and Sophie Ledesma

In this interactive ‘slide and seek’ board book little humans can follow Little Bunny through an entire day from sunrise to bedtime. In so doing they will meet Bunny’s forest friends, those that live in and on the river and goodness me, behind a large rock, not completely hidden so youngsters can guess what’s there, is something growly, furry and hungry.

After all that hopping and scurrying, Little Bunny needs to sleep, zzzz.

With sliders to move up and down, or in and out, flaps to open and a wheel to turn, young children will be developing their fine motor skills, enjoying a simple story and feeling involved in Bunny’s day. Then with a final spread that asks, ‘What did you spot on the way?’ showing ten labelled items, they can also develop their observation skills.

For older children, also with a nature theme, and lots of interactive elements is

One Little Egg
Becky Davies and Charlotte Pepper

This sturdy book is part of a non-fiction series that encourages children to use all their senses to actively engage with and explore in detail, the natural world.

Starting with eggs, Charlotte Pepper presents brightly-coloured spreads of birds’ nests, birdsong, feathers and birds in flight. There’s a spread devoted to bird spotting – you can do this without binoculars no matter where you are –

the food chain and urges youngsters to become involved in helping birds (and indirectly all wildlife), survive and thrive. The text presents a wealth of facts, some of which are hidden beneath flaps adding further reader involvement, and there are questions and activity suggestion boards that will stimulate discussion with young children.

A lively, engaging introduction to the wonders of the world of birds.

High Top

High Top
Tom Lacey
Little Tiger

Set in Shoe Town and starring a snazzy red trainer, dubbed the sneaker that just can’t stop, our hero is always on the lookout for fun in this lively romp. His unstoppability however, frequently ends in an upset, not for High Top, but for those he encounters as he hurls himself into the action wheresoever he finds it.
Having inadvertently discombobulated first Lorraine Boot, then the Shoezanne Ballerina and artist Vincent Van Toe,

High Top boings and whooshes his way to the park.

There, somewhat weary at last, he encounters Platoe, the most sagacious of shoes (and slippers). Platoe suggests High Top relaxes alongside him whereupon he cannot resist recounting to Platoe all the fun he’s had. What the wise one says in reply though, really does make High Top think hard about his actions.

Can he find it in himself to apologise and even think of a way to make amends to his fellow footwear for his ebullient actions. What would you do?

Laced with humour and soled with an important (maybe for some, a tad preachy) lesson for youngsters, this highly colourful, wacky tale with wordplay aplenty and a join-in chorus, was fashioned by Tom Lacey, which I discovered is – the ‘shoedonym’ of a group of creative ‘sole mates’ who have apparently written and illustrated a number of other books too.

Puppy Club: Coco Settles In / Dragon Storm: Erin and Rockhammer

Puppy Club: Coco Settles In
Catherine Jacob, illustrated by Rachael Saunders
Little Tiger

The second of the series sees Elsa and her fellow Puppy Clubbers – Jaya, Arlo, Willow, Daniel and Harper – all coping with the ups and downs of life with a new puppy. Elsa especially is finding things tough with two cats in her home as well as her puppy Coco. The cats chase Coco all over the house, Coco chews everything left lying around and Mum seems stressed all the time.

Thank goodness Elsa has fellow club members ready with lots of useful suggestions for keeping Coco out of trouble and ideas for helping her bond with the moggies.

Meanwhile other things on the Clubbers’ minds are the imminent visit to the vets for the puppies’ injections and a class presentation related to an organisation that helps animals. No doubt readers will guess what Elsa et al choose as their subject. However with frequent disasters in Elsa’s home, she cannot help but feel anxious: suppose her mum has had second thoughts about keeping Coco.

With puppy love aplenty, strong supportive friendships, training advice and puppy facts and lots of Rachael Saunders’ black and white illustrations to break up the text, young solo readers with a liking for animals especially, will enjoy this.

Dragon Storm: Erin and Rockhammer
Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Eric Deschamps
Nosy Crow

This is the sixth of the fantasy series set in the land of Draconis and it’s another exciting, action-packed page-turner that’s ideal for new solo readers. We’re plunged straight into the drama with Erin in the sand circle facing a number of opponents in some Dragonseer sword-fighting training. A training session it may be but Erin is determined to beat each of the other trainees and this she does. She’s less successful at summoning her own dragon, something that her fellow Dragonseer students seem to find easy – a click of the fingers is all they need do.

As a result Erin is somewhat lacking in self-confidence: she’s fearful of the feelings she experiences when trying to summon her dragon, Rockhammer despite the reassurance that Drun offers her. She becomes even more worried when Lady Berrin, Dragonseer Guild’s chancellor informs her there’s a place just outside the city she wants her to go to that might help with her panic attacks. Despite what she’s told, it seems to Erin that she’s being thrown out just like happened when she was in foster care.

Both Erin and fellow Dragonseer trainee, Connor (who Erin doesn’t get on with) are sent off to Stillness. Perhaps spending time here will help the two build a better relationship and maybe with Connor’s support Erin can succeed in summoning Rockhammer just when he’s most needed.

Courage, friendship and trust are key themes in this powerful tale which ends on a cliff-hanger.

Mort the Meek and the Perilous Prophecy

Mort the Meek and the Perilous Prophecy
Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by George Ermos
Little Tiger

Mindful of the introduction to this tale, lacking a rat disguise I worked on my scuttling and creeping skills, then donned my brown jacket and trousers before settling down to read Mort and Weed’s latest adventure, which like the previous two, begins in the rat-infested kingdom of Brutalia.

Happily for the two of them, or maybe not all that happily, some of the story takes place on a different island named Bonrock. Before that though, the friends meet two girls from Bonrock, Vita and Genia. It’s to this place that, not long after, the best friends are sent on a military mission, which will likely start ringing alarm bells for if you’ve read the first two books, you will know that Mort and Meek are staunch pacifists.

Bonrock seems pretty idyllic; surely the inhabitants won’t greet them with ‘fists of ferocity’ as happens on Brutalia? Are they friendly or as it appears to the two pacifists, intent on inflicting torture on their own people? It starts to look that way to the visitors as Genia and Vita show Weed and Mort around the classrooms and kitchens respectively. However misunderstandings are abundant in this story – I’ll say no more on that topic. I will say though that Weed develops a serious crush.

So much happens before the finale: there’s oodles of excitement, the possibility of a very painful punishment and Brutalia has a new Royal Soup Sayer; but throughout Mort is as determined as ever to promote peace and harmony over fury and fighting.

Rachel Delahaye is a superb linguist – her writing is cleverer and wittier with each new book. The wordplay is wonderful; even the characters get involved in explanations of such things as homophones and this works well. Whether the essence of the story is trusting strangers and fearing soup or fearing strangers and trusting soup, you can decide when you read it.

I’m off to change out of my brown attire and have a bowl of tomato soup. Oh yes and adding to the deliciousness of the book are George Ermos’ black and white illustrations.

I Really Really Love You So

I Really Really Love You So
Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

The adorable little bushbaby returns in a new and altogether different kind of ‘Really Really’ tale. Now the narrator has a vital message to impart; but how best to do it? That is the burning question. This particular bushbaby is prepared to go to enormous lengths to demonstrate love for somebody very important.

The possibilities are many and sometimes extreme including scaling the tallest mountain to write a loving message

and wrestling with a crocodile. More down to earth ideas come in the form of a floral bouquet, a magic trick or a model robot; perhaps studying what other animals do to say ‘I love you’ and copying such loving expressions as stamping and stomping

or squawking might work better. Assuredly there are myriad ways, but sometimes far, far simpler and most definitely the best way is … What do you think?

Karl’s first person rhyming text together with Duncan Beedie’s illustrations, which are bursting with humour, make a wonderfully warm, fun story for reading with young children.

Now We’re Together

Now We’re Together
Nicola Edwards and Jenny Bloomfield
Little Tiger

The world around us is full of wonders – real wonders; but unless we turn off the screens that constantly distract us with their virtual experiences we all miss so much.

The adult in this rhyming story decides that it’s time she and her child start by plunging themselves into darkness, holding hands and venturing outside for a real life adventure. Wow! In the night sky the moon becomes a massive pearl surrounded by stars shimmering like diamonds.

We join the two as uninhibited, they skip, splash, dance, swish and run through puddles and tall grass, into the woods where they pause for a while. Fireflies put on a magical show just for them

and then off the pair go, out of the woods and onto the seashore just as the sun begins to rise heralding the dawning of a new day – just as it does always.

Back through the streets already busy with the morning rush they go, aware that those around them are as distracted as ever by those flickering screens.

Nicola Edwards’ lyrical text and Jenny Bloomfield’s arresting illustrations convey a vital message to children and adults in this heartfelt, uplifting book. I hope it reaches a wide audience.

We Are Love / Don’t Mix Up My Dinosaur

These are two new titles from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

We Are Love
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott

Animal parents furry, wrinkly, scaly and feathery invite little humans to watch their demonstrations of love for their offspring. Whether it’s leaping squirrels, plodding pachyderms, diving dolphins, waddling penguins or whatever, we can find loving care in a multitude of places. Young children will be reassured to see that the final pages show a mother and her small child showing their heartfelt love for one another.

A clever cutaway design feature enables the second of the two spreads allocated to each loving parent and little one, to show them coming together to form a heart shape. 

A simple rhyming text that flows nicely and Elliott’s textured illustrations of the featured creatures make for a reassuring lap book or bedtime book to share with the very youngest, some of whom may notice that there are other unnamed animal pairs in the background also forming heart shapes and even some minibeasts forming hearts with their wings.

Don’t Mix Up My Dinosaur
Rosamund Lloyd and Spencer Wilson

Five dinosaurs provide tactile fun in this matching game of a book. By turning the wheel little ones can help Triceratops find her missing horn; enable Ankylosaurus to get back his lumpy, bumpy club, make sure Velociraptor and her fluffy tail are reunited, 

put Parasaurolophus’s crest where it should be and put Spinosaurus and her scaly tail together again.

The wheel is easily moved by little hands and young children will enjoy meeting the various brightly coloured dinosaurs – in their correct or mixed-up forms. They’ll also enjoy learning (and trying to get their tongues around) their correct names; these are provided on the back cover though not in the simple repetitive text. Interactive, inventive and appealing.

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.


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:


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

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

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.


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.

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

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.

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.