Make Time for a Board Book

Where’s My Llama?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger

Capitalising on the current vogue for all things llama, Becky Davies has written a board book. Herein a llama has gone missing and it’s up to little ones to follow the trail of brightly coloured footprints to track her down.

Along the way tiny detectives will encounter a long-necked Giraffe, a cute tailed fox

and a long-eared rabbit, all of which have similar characteristics to the llama.
But where is the errant ungulate? Rest assured her fluffy tail will finally give the game away.

With its final flap reveal, Kate McLelland’s alluring scenes – each with a touch and feel animal body part – on softly patterned pastel backgrounds, simple descriptive text with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my llama?’ to chant, there’s plenty to keep the attention of tinies throughout this touch and feel, search and find book.

Maisy’s Science
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Toddlers’ favourite mouse Maisy is in investigative mode in this STEAM First Words tabbed book.

Out and about, she encounters some very windy weather that is perfect for kite flying; seasonal snow as she feeds the birds; enjoys a relaxing break from vegetable gathering to enjoy watching the minibeasts close by. Then it’s time for a bit of seed watering – perhaps she’s planted sunflower seeds – followed by observing some seasonal changes.

The arrival of her friends gives an opportunity to look at various parts of their bodies and hers and once she’s alone again, she and cuddly Panda can investigate a variety of textures; make some rather noisy musical sound with her percussion; don her painting apron and experiment with her paints, perhaps trying colour mixing and after all that activity it’s time to sit and read a book (or choose from one of the other learning tools shown on the opposite page).

Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop!
Todd Tuell and Tad Carpenter
Abrams Appleseed

This is a fun, rhyming tale of an energetic would-be little ninja whom we first meet looking terrified of the rather large family dog.

Creeping away, he comes upon his younger brother happily playing with a balloon. Not for long though. With a deft ‘chop’ Ninja  removes the balloon from little bro., then proceeds to snatch his chocolate-chip cookie and with a further chop – delivered with his foot this time – destroys his block-built castle leaving the long-suffering toddler howling.

A change of heart caused by an unseen force calling ‘Ninja, Ninja, would you stop?’ sees our Ninja then pause and help to reconstruct the building before whizzing off once more into the great outdoors.

It’s there that he receives his comeuppance, discovering – much to his surprise – that little brother is actually a highly observant pupil. Time to join forces it seems, for two Ninjas may well be better than one, certainly when it comes to scheming.

There’s a slight retro feel to Tad Carpenter’s bold, bright scenes from which the black-clad Ninja leaps out – literally! I can see little ones joining in, enthusiastically chanting along with adult readers aloud of debut author, Todd Tuell’s staccato text, as they turn the pages.

Books For Babies And Beyond

Ducky’s Bathtime
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Quack! Quack! Hooray! – it’s Ducky’s bathtime day. In a lovely squishy waterproof, wipe- clean format, this delightful Ducky adventure is totally irresistible.

Not only does it provide the perfect opportunity to introduce Lucy Cousins’ adorable Ducky to babies, they can also meet the quacky duckling’s friends including fish, ducks, frog and newt.

Who Said Woof? / Who Said Moo?
Yi-Hsuan Wu
Little Tiger

Four animals in each book make their characteristic sounds but they’ve all hidden themselves away beneath flaps depicting four other animals each with a tactile die-cut shape on its back.

So, it wasn’t Bunny who said ‘Woof!, nor Guinea Pig who said ‘Meow!; neither did Goldfish ‘Squeak!’ nor Tortoise ‘Squawk!’ but lifting each flap wlll reveal the sound-creating creatures.

As you might expect. Horse did not ’Moo!, Llama certainly didn’t ‘Baa!’, Dog definitely didn’t ‘Quack and Rabbit wasn’t responsible for that ‘Oink!’

Toddlers will enjoy discovering the hidden culprits that they’re likely already to have guessed, beneath the flaps in Yi-Hsuan Wu’s jolly illustrations.

The final spread of each book collects together the entire cast of animal characters with a question “What sound do you say?’ – anything goes!

With their predictable repeat refrains, both books are just right for older siblings beginning to read for themselves, to share with a toddler brother or sister and everyone can enjoy making the animal noises.

You Complete Me
Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books

‘Better together’ (a wider, hidden meaning perhaps?) is the message in this tasty, playful, peek-a-boo board book where partnerships prove paramount.

Set against vivid backgrounds, bright, eye-catching toddler foodie favourites such as milk and cookies, and peanut butter and jelly, unite to make the point loud and clear in Thomas Elliott’s delicious die-cut piece of daftness.

With its puns and clever design, adults will savour the pleasure along with their little ones as they share this one.

Early Years Christmas Books

Maisy’s Christmas Letters
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Maisy is throwing a Christmas party and she’s been busy writing invitations to all her friends. It’s not long before the replies start coming in, along with other surprise items for Maisy such as a calendar(Eddie), a recipe (Cyril), a tiny joke book (Charley) and a special letter.
Interactive fun for little ones and just right to share in the run-up to Christmas. I suspect Maisy will acquire a host of new human friends with this book.

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise
Mark Carthew and Simon Prescott
New Frontier Publishing

Thanks to a surprise gift from her mother on the first of December, and her own thoughtfulness, Marigold Mouse is able to bring Christmas happiness to her best friend Marvin.
Mark Carthew’s lively rhyming narrative and Simon Prescott’s expressive illustrations together make for a warm-hearted seasonal story in the Marvin and Marigold series reminding us all that Christmas is for sharing with others.

Winnie the Pooh: The Long Winter Sleep
Jane Riordan, Eleanor Taylor and Mikki Butterley
Egmont

Who or what is making those Scritch! Scratch! Crunch! sounds as Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood bed down for their long winter sleep, shutting out the cold wind blowing through the Forest? One after another the animals venture out into the darkness in the hopes of discovering the source of the weird noises. What they find comes as a wonderful surprise that warms them both outside and inside.

Jane Riordan succeeds in capturing the essence of Milne’s characters in this charming tale while the illustrators give a slightly carton feel to the artwork.
Also in the same series but in a mini edition:

A Pudding for Christmas
The friends all gather to make a Christmas pudding, “A gigantic delicious pudding as big as Pooh,” announces Christopher Robin. Each in turn adds an ingredient to the mix and then one by one they stir the pudding and make a wish until Kanga realises that Roo is missing. Is he or is he not somewhere in the pudding? It’s probably a good idea to defer cooking it – just in case …
Another enchanting episode for tinies, this pocket sized book would make a good stocking filler.

Vegetables in Holiday Underwear
Jared Chapman
Abrams Appleseed

The eagerly anticipated season of holiday underwear has arrived and there’s seasonal excitement in veggie land. So says the green pea announcer at the start of the latest in Jared Chapman’s zany series.

Readers are then treated to a pants extravaganza that displays underwear of the cosy and scratchy kinds, that to wear inside and outside; to accommodate the Christmas meal there are stretchy pants as well as the inevitable tight pair. Some pants are similar while others are utterly unique. And because it’s Christmas even Santa is suitably ‘panted. Festive silliness for sure.

Early Years Round-Up

Father’s Day
Shirley Hughes
Walker Books

A gorgeously warm celebration of moments shared with a beloved dad are woven together to make a super little book for dads and their very little ones to share around Father’s Day, or on any other day. There’s a lively early morning awakening and musical rendition at breakfast time and a walk to playgroup. The highlight though is a day spent at the beach, playing, snoozing, sandcastle building and picnicking. Then it’s back home for bathtime, a spot of first aid,

a goodnight story and some moon spotting.

Bliss! And who better to show all that than the wonderful Shirley Hughes.

Maisy Goes to a Show
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Maisy and friends are off to the theatre to see a performance of Funny Feathers, starring Flora Fantastica. Maisy finds it hard to contain her excitement as they queue, browse a programme and eventually take their front-row seats just as the music starts and the curtain lifts for the drama to begin.

During the interval, there’s time for a loo visit and snacks before the bell rings for curtain up again and the cast, led by Flora, sing in the big city of their desires before heading back to their jungle home, and a curtain call farewell.

Maisy fans will love it, and she’ll likely win some new followers with this latest “First Experiences’ story.
More new experiences come in:

The Scooter
Judy Brown
Otter-Barry Books

Twin rabbits Bruno and Bella and back in a second story. Bruno is thrilled to bits with his brand new scooter, practising eagerly using alternate legs and travelling at different speeds in different places. The only trouble is he forgets to perfect one crucial aspect of the entire process: how to use the brake. This precipitates some high drama as he whizzes downhill, through fields, a garden, the market and the park before Bella finally catches up with him – almost.

Anyone for a repeat performance?: Bruno certainly and I’m pretty sure very little humans will demand a re-run too; it’s smashing fun and who can resist Bruno’s enthusiasm?
And for slightly older listeners:

Sandy Sand Sandwiches!
Philip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick
Walker Books

Philip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick’s ‘sticky stickers’ awarders, The Little Adventurers return with their zest for life and bonhomie. It’s a very hot day as they assemble in their HQ shed, collect the necessary items and await one of their number, Finnegan who eventually turns up already sporting his snazzy trunks.

Off they go to the beach in his daddy’s car, arriving full of enthusiasm but with a modicum of good sense as they share the safety rules before heading onto the sand for some sculpting.

Masterpieces complete, it’s time to stand back and admire each one in turn.

Then after ice-cream treats it’s off for some paired rock-pooling,

followed by shell collecting and an unplanned treasure hunt. Then it’s time for a quick dip before they all head home with a few grains of sand to remind them of their day and back at HQ, a final sticker awarding, including one to Snub for his very helpful ‘mouse-sitting’.

Brimming over with silliness, friendship, sandy treats and other adorable delights (including the occasional fact), this is a treat for littles around the age of the characters herein.

Finally, if you missed the original, there’s now a board book version of:

Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox
Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books

Now a tiny version of a favourite spotty tale for very littles.
Ellen has chicken pox; she’s covered from head to toe in horribly itchy spots; and what does she want to do to those spots? Scratch them, especially the one right on the tip of her nose. As she gazes in the bathroom mirror, about to do the deed, she hears a voice – no, not mum’s but Princess Mirror-Belle’s.

Thus begins a funny story, delivered for a change in prose rather than Donaldson’s more usual rhyme. Lydia Monks’ sparkle-spangled, collage constructed illustrations offer readers an abundance of opportunities for visual and tactile exploration.

 

Nibbles Numbers / Little Fish and Mummy / Where’s Mr Duck?

Nibbles Numbers
Emma Yarlett
Little Tiger Press

Emma Yarlett’s little yellow book-eating monster Nibbles is back and now he’s got his teeth into a board book. One might think that chomping through card would be a challenge too far but no. Once released the little fellow immediately starts sinking his gnashers into the pages and even has the audacity to nibble into the numerals leaving fairly sizeable holes.

Moreover he’s sabotaging our counting practice and just when we think we’ve cornered the little munching rascal, he makes a dive for it and disappears through the final spread, only to emerge on the back cover with a satisfied grin on his face.

Smashing fun and what a delight to be able to introduce my favourite little monster Nibbles to a younger audience.

Little Fish and Mummy
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

The latest Little Fish book is narrated by none other than Little Fish who is particularly excited about sharing with listeners a ‘Mummy Fish and me’ day.

This special day is spent on lessons in swimming and bubble blowing, splishing and splashing with all the other fish, a game of hide-and-seek just with Mum and a look inside a deep down cave.

What better way to end such a great day than with a round of kissing – ‘Kiss, kiss, kiss!’

Irresistible if you know a little one who’s a fan of Lucy Cousins’ endearing spotty Little Fish, and I certainly know a lot of those.

Where’s Mr Duck?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

The latest felt flap hide-and-seek board book in this deservedly popular series is set around the pond. In its environs little ones can discover Mrs Butterfly, Mr Frog,

Mrs Worm, Mr Duck and finally as the creatures look on, him or herself.

With its characteristic question and answer format, a wealth of opportunities for developing language, bold bright art and satisfying conclusion it’s no wonder the series is such a success; this one will be as popular as its predecessors.

Board Book Friends: Guess How Much I Love You:Here I Am! A Finger Puppet Book / Maisy’s House

Guess How Much I Love You:Here I Am! A Finger Puppet Book
Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
Walker Books

Here’s a super-gorgeous finger puppet board book about everyone’s favourite Little Nutbrown hare and his adoring Big Nutbrown hare.
To delight all little ones and their adults the two engage in a game of hide-and-seek in the environs of their favourite tree.

Little Nutbrown hare likes to play over and over, hiding in different places and eagerly responding to Big Nutbrown hare’s “Where are you …? with a cry of “Here I am!”.

The game continues until Big Nutbrown hare is tired out and in need of a good rest: still though the little one has boundless energy as shown with the final … HERE I AM!”

What better company for a game of peek-a-boo with a baby or toddler, than the adorable plush finger puppet Little Nutbrown hare: total delight throughout.

Maisy’s House
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Maisy’s House is I think, a board book reworking of a much larger pop-up book published some years back.

Ever popular with tinies, Maisy Mouse invites them to visit her house and share her day. It’s a day she spends with Panda and Little Black Cat as they wake up, brush their teeth, dress and have breakfast.

Then Maisy gets creative,

plays and bakes some yummy cupcakes for the visitor due to arrive soon.

Before long, rat-a-tat; there’s Tallulah and it’s time for tea and more fun together.

With its fold-out play scene with pop-out pieces of Maisy and her pal, this simple, brightly coloured story is smashing fun for little ones. They may well need a little assistance manipulating the small removable parts and slotting them together.

Board Book Beauties: I am Little Fish! / Wiggly Wiggly

I am Little Fish!
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

I cannot imagine any little tot resisting Little Fish’s invitation to join him and play,  on the first page of this wigglesome, rhyming, finger puppet delight.

In addition to a whole lot of tail wiggling -at varying speeds – there’s bubble blowing,

as well as showing off his shimmying, twirling and whirling moves.

Then Little Fish introduces his fishy pals who’ve come to join him in a dipping down diving game of peek-a-boo.

And finally, up swims Mum for a spot of kissing.  Just perfect!

Wiggly Wiggly
Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell
Walker Books

Here’s a selection of the most join-in-able playful Rosen rhymes from the original A Great Big Cuddle, illustrated by Chris Riddell in super-energetic style.

It’s absolutely certain to get your little ones ‘Tippy-Tappy’ ing, ‘Boing! Boing’ing squash, squishing, ‘wiggly wiggly’ing, ‘buzz buzz buzz’-ing, ‘moo moo, moo’ing, ‘squawk squawk squawk’ing ‘splosh, splash, splosh’-ing, ( doesn’t Chris Riddell draw elephants awesomely,

not to mention finger walking, waving, talking, tiring, flattening, buttering, spreading and ‘bed’ding down.
There’s also plenty of munching and crunching as you lunch with a crocodile.

We meet sad-looking Mo being cuddled following a fall in a puddle and then it’s time for monkey business with half a dozen of the cheeky little animals.

After which, I have absolutely no doubt your toddler(s) will demand that you turn back and start all over again.

If this brilliant board book doesn’t give the vital ‘language is fun’ message to both children and adults, then ‘I never writ nor no (wo)man ever loved’ Apologies to the bard. No, not the author!

Early Years Bookshelf: Maisy Goes to a Wedding / Bigger, Bigger!

Maisy Goes to a Wedding
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Oh my goodness! Ostrich and Penguin are getting married and we’re all invited to their wedding. Needless to say Maisy, decked out in her new outfit, is super-excited.

At the flower-bedecked venue, Maisy greets all her friends. Every one of them has brought something for the couple and soon it’s time for the celebration to start.

Music plays as Tallulah leads the way festooning the aisle with flowers and is closely followed by Penguin on the arm of Charley. They reach the waiting Ostrich.

Owl does the officiating, rings are exchanged, “I do” is said by both partners and then it’s the party. Hurrah!
Delicious food, toasting the couple, music and dancing and cutting the cake follow.

Then the bride throws her bouquet: who will catch it though?

After a wonderful party the happy couple leave for their honeymoon …

Maisy fans will love this latest episode in the ‘First Experiences series’, which now numbers over 15 titles.

Bigger! Bigger!
Leslie Patricelli
Walker Books

The story really starts before the title page with a little girl gleefully emptying out her box of coloured blocks onto the floor.
Build’ she says smiling, hard-hat balancing precariously on her head.

From then on her imagination appears to take over as the blue wall behind her is transformed into blue sky and her pets too have donned hard-hats and their buildings look real: first a dog kennel ‘Big’; then a wooden house ‘Bigger!’ and ‘Bigger! Bigger!’ is the cry …

as a block of flats, a large bridge, office blocks appear until we see the happy builders exuberantly celebrating the finish of their task.

They’re certainly an ambitious crew these three.

Suddenly there’s a ‘BOOM! BOOM!’ followed by at the turn of the page a huge nappy-clad baby (has it escaped from the author’s board books?) wreaking havoc.

Thereafter reality is restored with tears from big sis. and then a penitent babe attempting a silent apology.

Finally co-operation wins the day and ‘Stronger! Stronger!‘ comes the cry.

Share with a group of nursery children or an individual around the age of the girl builder – either way they’ll demand repeats. Equally, with its minimal text writ large, this is perfect for those just starting to read.

Board Book Choice

Where is Little Fish?
Count with Little Fish

Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Lucy Cousins who created Hooray for Fish adds two new board books to her undersea titles and they’re absolutely perfect for babies and toddlers.
In the first, Little Fish is in playful mood as he enjoys a game of hide and seek with his undersea friends. The repeat question starting ‘Is Little Fish … ‘ is an open invitation for listeners to join in with the game.
Finding him is tricky as there are all manner of hiding places on the ocean floor – behind the coral, inside a shell or the treasure chest, perhaps even among the seaweed fronds.
Tinies can enjoy discovering his location and meeting some of his playmates by manipulating the flap on each spread.

Here’s one year old Raf. doing just that!

Count with Little Fish is a rhyming suggestion to join in as the tiny creature swims through the water meeting 2 fin-fin fish

3 counting fish, 4 flying fish, 5 fat fish, 6 thin ones, 7 scary sharp toothed ones, 8 shy ones, 9 that have turned themselves upside down and finally 10 fish swimming in a circle.
A fun-filled first counting book.

Who is Sleeping?
Who is the Biggest?

Petr Horáček
Walker Books

Lift the flap fun with classy, textured images of wonderfully personable creatures partially hidden, on spreads absolutely bursting with colour in Petr Horáček’s signature style: what more could a toddler want?
In Who’s Sleeping? they meet a dozing owl, a napping frog, a snoozing crocodile, a sleeping fish and a slumbering Polar bear and a final child in dreamland in this enchanting guessing game.
A variety of descriptive words are introduced as contrasting sized wild animals pose side by side in the half dozen spreads of Who is the Biggest? There’s ‘Brave Lion and Shy Meerkat, Short Penguin and Tall Ostrich, Slow Tortoise and Fast Hare, Heavy Whale and Light Jellyfish, Noisy Parrot and Quiet Mouse and these two beauties …

But the biggest of all lurks behind Big Monkey’s tail. Now what could that be?
Wonderfully shaped wild beasts and flaps to explore add up to hours of visual pleasure and some new vocabulary to learn along the way.

Storytime with Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Red Reading Hub’s favourite board book character stars in a new addition to Sophy Henn’s lift-the-flap series as he contemplates the possibilities of storytime.
Will it be full of magical wizards with their twinkly spells? Or a stomping dinosaur adventure perhaps. What about a fairytale; Ted loves this one …

but he also enjoys spooky tales; maybe he’ll choose one of those.
Now his animal audience is assembled, and they’re all sitting comfortably, what will their “Once upon a time… “ story be? What would you choose?
Ted and his entourage never fail to delight and so it is here. If you and your toddler have yet to encounter Ted, I urge you to do so right away; he’s utterly adorable.

I’ve signed the charter  

Splish, Splash, Ducky!

Splish, Splash, Ducky!
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Lucy Cousins has created a lively new addition to her array of cute characters to delight pre-schoolers.

Ducky Duckling is a pluviophile and on this particular rainy day is in high spirits as with a ‘Quack, quack, quack!’ the little creature sets off in search of some friends to play with.

This refrain is a demonstration of happiness and Ducky utters it when hopping with frog, squirming with wriggly worm,

bestowing hugs on bug and slug, playing with the swans, swimming with the fish,

joining the birds in a spot of feather shaking and generally revelling in the feel of all those drips and drops while joining mouse in a game of hide and seek.

Observant listeners will more than likely have noticed that at every turn of the page, the rain is easing off until … ‘No more drips. No more drops.’ Suddenly Ducky feels sad and heads off to find Dad.

Fortunately for his offspring, the mallard knows just the thing for some fair weather fun – a round or two of quack, quack quacks!

With a rhyming text that offers plenty of opportunities for audience participation and a host of absolutely adorable animal characters illustrated in Lucy Cousins’ spirited style, (with more naturalistic representations of the surrounding flora) this is perfect for sharing with the very young.

Not only that but with its simple rhyming text that’s full of word play, this is perfect for those just beginning to read for themselves. Which would you rather offer a child just starting out on their journey as a reader: a deadly dull phonic early reading scheme book or this super storybook? – It’s a no brainer!

Birdy Board Books

Tweet! Tweet!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
Five birds have hidden themselves away for toddlers to discover in Sebastien Braun’s latest addition to the ‘Can You Say It Too? lift-the-flap series. Spring is definitely in the air as sparrow tweets from behind the blossom; the dove coos,
a woodpecker taps, crow caws (is it a nosy one perhaps) and a beautiful peacock screeches – a noise the babes have yet to learn.
Boldly illustrated with more to spot and talk about than just the featured garden birds, and fun sounds to copy, this should amuse toddlers over and over.

Five Little Ducks
Illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
In my incarnation as a nursery teacher the song on which this book is based was always a firm favourite to sing and sign.
Now illustrator, Yu-hsuan Huang brings a delightful story element to the whole thing in four double spreads of animals enjoying the countryside as the number of ducklings swimming along behind their mother diminishes one by one.
There are sliders to manipulate, talking points aplenty not least being where do the missing ducks disappear to and of course, the song to sing along to.
You’re going to have hours of fun when you share this chunky book with your little one, especially if you scan the QR code to get an audio version of the song on your tablet or smartphone.

A Busy Day for Birds
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
Not all board book versions of picture books work but here’s one that is equally delightful in a chunky smaller edition for tiny hands because nothing of the original is missing and there is no feeling of cramping either of text or illustrations.
Young children will find it hard to resist Lucy Cousins’ invitation to flap, hop, peck, stretch your neck, swoop, scratch, stand on one leg, waddle, run, wiggle your bum and make a lot of noise with cock-a-doodle-doos , clucks, tweets, hums, cheeps and tuwit tuwoos.
I’ve already reviewed the original hardback so I’ll say no more other than, ‘It’s time to play: be a bird (or several) today!’

Beep, Beep, Maisy / Flora and the Ostrich / BuildaBlock

Beep, Beep, Maisy
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
With petrol tank duly filled, Maisy sets off through the countryside and it seems all her pals are out and about too.
Dotty drives her tractor, Peacock pedals his bike, Ostrich is in charge of a train …

Eddie has taken to air in his helicopter, Tallulah has received a fire-engine call out and Cyril is driving a bus.
There’s one more vehicle none of them will be pleased to see though, and that’s the one digging up the road. Uh-oh! I hope they’ll let that fire engine through.
A large sized board book with Maisy and friends, lots of vehicles and associated sounds to join in with, and over 50 flaps to explore: that surely adds up to toddler delight.

Flora and the Ostrich
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora is back to perform with yet another bird and enchant us with her dancing once again. This time however it’s a dance of contrasts: Flora holds a yellow sunshade – her prop throughout the performance, – so, for example, her front is revealed while the ostrich shows its back.
The pair’s dance of opposites continues as they present hello/goodbye, hide/seek, under/over, give/take,

stop/go, near/far, sad/happy, apart and …

What a beautifully playful way to demonstrate some basic concepts and a great starting point for an early years movement session on the same theme, with children working in pairs in Flora/ostrich fashion.
A lovely addition to Molly Idle’s Flora board book sequence.

BuildaBlock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed
Twenty four construction vehicles, are sandwiched between the sturdy covers of the latest ‘Block’ board book,
A team of building workers – it’s good to see both males and females – talk us through the whole process from demolition of the old …

right through to the almost finished redevelopment. We see every truck as it plays its vital part be that clearing, levelling, excavating, shifting loads, tunnelling, road making, bridge building, lifting loads skywards, pile driving, cutting trenches. There’s even a sky crane involved.

A straightforward sentence describes each part of the operation and the visuals, with fold-outs and die-cut pages, fill in the details of what I envisage becoming, like others in the series, a firm favourite with mechanically-minded pre-schoolers. Another winner for the Franceschelli/Peskimo team.

Maisy Goes to the Bookshop / Kiki and Bobo’s Super Surprise

Maisy Goes to the Bookshop
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
A book that promotes the idea of reading and bookshops for the very young – what’s not to love? And when it’s a child-friendly establishment (or in this case Maisy friendly) with a kindly bookseller on hand to help you make a choice once you’ve had a good browse, as is so at  ‘We Love Books’, you know you’re in one of the best possible places.
Then when you happen to bump into your friends, all enthusing about their choice of reading matter things get even better. There’s even a story time session …

and a café to complete the delights, before you head off to give another friend a very special present.
Lucy Cousins captures the magic of books and bookshops for pre-schoolers in her bright, engaging scenes of budding bibliophiles. Hurray for Maisy and friends, and child-friendly bookshops everywhere.

Kiki and Bobo’s Super Surprise
Yasmeen Ismail
Walker Books
Two friends return in another lift-the-flap fun story.
It’s a special day in Kiki and Bobo’s house, so they both think; far more special than waffle day, Bobo tells his friend as he departs to market.
Kiki meanwhile decides it must be her best friend’s birthday and sets about preparing for a surprise party. She bakes a cake, blows up balloons, hangs bunting and dons her best party clothes.
She of course, is not the only one preparing for a surprise party.
Bobo’s shopping includes lots of yummy food …

and a special present; and on his way home, he stops to pick a birthday bouquet for Kiki, who back  indoors, seems totally unaware that it’s actually her birthday that is being celebrated.
Let the merriment begin …

Gentle offbeat humour for the very youngest: it’s brimming over with flaps to explore, labels to read and yummy things to tingle the taste buds, not forgetting that BIG SURPRISE for one of the main characters that will be eagerly anticipated by knowing toddlers.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Busy Day for Birds

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A Busy Day for Birds
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
Can you imagine … just for one day … you’re a busy bird? Yes, a bird! Hooray!’ is the invitation issued by Lucy Cousins on the opening spread of her avian offering. Yes, is the answer.  If, like me, you practise yoga regularly, you might well think of being a peacock with a wonderful tail to display…

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or perhaps, a bird like the graceful beauty standing very tall on just one leg shown on the cover.
Every spread though is an invitation to children, not only to delight in her vibrant portraits of some feathered friends but also to create some of their own, using their bodies, with paints, crayons, collage materials, modelling clay, dough or anything else they can think of. And then, there are all the various bird sounds too.
They’ll most definitely relish spreading their wings and trying some swooping like these spotty fliers.

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But there are also invitations to sing, tweet, hum and cheep, to waddle penguin style, to ‘go, go, go!‘ and, to run like an ostrich – who could resist that one, or sitting in a nest and having a ‘cuddle with mum’?
Especially pleasing is the manner of the book’s circularity – starting off ‘being a busy bird day’ with the wake-up call of the cockerel and finishing it with a goodnight bidding from the owl.

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Billed as a follow-up to Hooray for Fish! I think Lucy Cousins has done our winged flappers, swoopers and peckers even prouder: an absolute gem for early years audiences.

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I Spy …

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I Spy in the Sky …
Edward Gibbs
Templar Publishing (Brubaker, Ford & Friends)
Information is painlessly and playfully  absorbed as young readers engage in a game of I-Spy in this series; here the focus is birds, the format is the same as for previous titles.
On the right hand side of each double spread is a die-cut peep hole. This offers an up-close view of a portion of a wing of the particular flying creature being ‘spied’ be it parrot, hummingbird, pelican, eagle, owl or other bird. The left-hand page provides a look at the bird in question’s own eye. To aid the guessing there are factual verbal clues relating to food, manner of flying, and colour of plumage whilst a glimpse of the animal’s habitat is presented across the double spread; add to that additional information in the form of speech bubbles, then turn the page to reveal a wonderfully dramatic vision of the bird itself executed in Edward Gibbs’ characteristically bold style.
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Maisy’s World of Animals
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
Join an appropriately clad and equipped Maisy and visit such contrasting environments as the icy Arctic, snow-capped alpine mountains, the scorching sandy desert, the hot grassy savannah,

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the Oceanic depths, a lush jungle and finally, the freezing South Pole. At each location we are can spot four different kinds of animal (except at the Pole), one or more of which can be moved by a tab-pull or opening flap.
Yes, I’m sure the very young will  be absorbing some basic science concepts but more important, they will be expanding their horizons, increasing their vocabulary and vitally, having fun sharing the book with an adult or older child. How long the movable parts will last in enthusiastic hands, I’m not sure, but I suspect this one, like other Maisy titles, will get many re-reads.
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Pip and Posy Look and Say
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Illustrations from Pip and Posy’s other titles have been reworked into this large format I Spy book. My first thoughts when I saw the title of this one were: Are the publishers/author trying to oust the current phonic obsession that presently holds our nation’s beginning readers in its thrall? Would that they were.
Actually though I don’t think that is the intention (more’s the pity). This is essentially a sequence of playful scenes showing the friends in a variety of locations – the park,

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the town, home and garden engaged in those everyday activities that can make special moments for small children. We see them scooting, flying a balloon, peering out at two birds tugging at a worm in the rain, tobogganing, pulling off wellies, playing with building blocks and trains, sharing a snack, dressing up, using play-dough and more. Each double page scene has an accompanying narrative and underneath is a series of eight small, captioned, telescope-view style pictures preceded by an invitation from a minibeast, bird or toy “Can you find these things?” Hence, many hours of enjoyable togetherness with small child, book and adult or older sibling.
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Not actually an ‘I-Spy’ book, rather one that invites the very young to count is:

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Giraffe’s Jungle Boogie
Liza Miller and Sarah Pitt
Templar Publishing
Giraffe loves to dance but without a tune to follow, she makes it a leg-tangling disaster. Off she goes (seemingly armed or should that be legged?) with instruments in search of a band to keep her on beat. She encounters in turn one elephant – he receives a bell, two monkeys – they get cymbals, three zebras – drums for them

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and four lions – they become banjo strummers. But then elephant downs tools or rather bell and the other animals quickly follow suit. Time for some quick thinking and a new plan… Before long there is a reconvened group starring an elephant trumpeter and five jiving giraffes.
Having said this isn’t an I-spy book, it could, with the assistance of an adult mediator, very easily become one. As well as the animals to count, there are all manner of minibeasts, brightly coloured flowers, musical instruments and other items in the landscape to spot and/or count.
With jolly, bright and often amusing, images from Sarah Pitt, paper engineered pop-ups by Jonathan Litton and Liza Miller’s rhyming text, this one should provide lots to engage preschoolers.
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Stephen Biesty’s Giant Vehicles
Stephen Biesty, Rod Green and Andy Mansfield
Templar Publishing
This sturdy book (it will need to be) is a veritable feast for the eyes, not to mention the mind. Biesty has chosen eight giant movers to be the subjects of this thoroughly engrossing info-graphic book. The featured whoppers are ‘The Super-Train’, The Giant Jumbo (Airbus A380), The Whopper Chopper (Russian Halo helicopter),

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Saturn V, the rocket that powered the Apollo spacecraft, The Caterpillar 797F dumper truck, floating hotel the Oasis of the Seas, the Russian naval submarine Typhoon and the world’s biggest ship Maersk Triple-E.
Countless hours, weeks even, of child (or adult come to that) absorbed in book are assured with this one. In addition to the numerous written facts (provided by Rod Green) visible on the page, lift the flaps – over 40 in all – (Andy Mansfield engineered those) to reveal further informative annotations to Biesty’s mind bogglingly detailed, pen/ink and watercolor washed, illustrations.
I can see it being read to death – literally. Buy to give and buy to keep. It’s an infinitely better way to turn young minds on to science/technology than any endless testing regime.
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A Pair of Picture Book Gems

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That Is NOT a Good Idea!
Mo Willems
Walker Books
Mo Willems is just brilliant and this book definitely is A GOOD IDEA!
The members of cast in this high drama are Hungry Fox, a very dapper looking chap sporting brown suit and matching top hat, tie and waistcoat, black shoes and spats, Plump Goose with shopping basket and headscarf and half a dozen yellow baby geese. Of course, everyone knows that foxes like nothing better to eat than plump geese and true to form, this one invites Goose for a stroll leading her through town, into the dark wood, and on to his nearby kitchen and to boil some water for soup. As Goose agrees to each invitation, the yellow goslings warn, “That is NOT a good idea” adding more and more emphasis as the journey proceeds. When Hungry Fox asks his visitor, “Would you care to look at my soup? A key ingredient is missing. “ The goslings’ warning is a frantic,
“That is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY NOT a good idea!” And so it proves, but for which of the characters? Suffice it to say, this goose is anything but cooked and it’s she and the six goslings that sit down for supper.
The silent movie presentation is pure genius. At each stage Fox and Goose are shown hamming up their parts with their words displayed on the subsequent decorated blackboard-filled pages; the chorus of warnings from the goslings that follow the captions echoing the audiences reaction as the tension mounts.

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There will be encores aplenty for this one I have no doubt.
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Peck Peck Peck
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
This book has more holes than The Very Hungry Caterpillar; in fact it is absolutely riddled with holes thanks to its young woodpecker narrator. Excited by his initial success on the tree trunk and eager to follow his father’s instructions, to “Practise hard and have some fun.” said little bird not only pecks at the gate and front door of a house but hones his skills on pretty much everything else inside – clothes, toys, furniture, furnishings, books, the soap and shampoo – even the loo and that’s before he starts on the food. Having pecked his way through everything in sight, the young learner is, unsurprisingly, more than a little tired, so it’s back to the nest to report to his waiting dad and then off to bed, full of the joys of pecking. Such a blissful finale too.

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This rhyming, ‘holesome’ tale of household havoc simply bounces along and has Lucy Cousins’ trademark bright coloured pages and images and a hand lettered text.
Definitely destined to be right at the top of the pecking order when it comes to story time sessions at home, in nurseries, schools and libraries, I shall enjoy sharing this one on many occasions.
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