Board Book Treats

Dress Up!
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing

Little ones can make sure the characters in Jane Foster’s Dress Up! are suitably clad whatever the weather or what they want to do.

Bear needs to go out but there’s a downpour so a coat and wellies are required. Hamster is thinking of a stroll in the sunshine – a pair of sunglasses and a hat are a good idea for her.
Brrr! Cat is venturing into the snow: warm mittens and scarf are just the thing.

Frog on the other hand needs to be geared up with goggles and armbands for swim time.

It’s the end of the day when we meet Monkey. Once he’s got on his PJs and slippers, it’s time to say “toys away” and bid him ‘Goodnight’.

On each recto, opening a flap on Jane’s vibrantly portrayed animal, and a slider alongside, enables your little one to assist the animal with its snazzy outfit. A simple descriptive phrase followed by ‘Can you put on … ?’ set against a bright background poses the challenge.

Interactive fun, a predictable text and alluring art – what more can a toddler ask of a board book – oh yes, the chance to develop manipulative skills too.

I Forgot to Say I Love You
Miriam Moss and Anna Currey
Macmillan Children’s Books

This is a sweet story to read with the very young and it’s now available in a sturdy board book format.

It’s time Little Billy Bear was up, dressed and having his breakfast ready for nursery but he’s procrastinating on account of Rabbit his favourite soft toy. Mum though hasn’t time for his dawdles or she’ll be late for work.

Consequently she hurries him along

all the way to where Mrs Brown is waiting at the nursery door where she hands him over and dashes off.

Poor Billy is more than a little bit upset as Mum has left without saying that all important “I love you” to her son; moreover she still has Rabbit in her bag across her back.

Billy is convinced that Rabbit’s lost. Mrs Brown tries to placate the little bear who is now distraught, when suddenly in bursts Billy’s mum with Rabbit safe and sound and she’s ready to comfort him and tell her son she loves him. Then all is finally well.

Anna Currey beautifully captures both Billy’s changing feelings and the inherent warmth of Miriam Moss’s text with her scenes of the early morning rush that include details that make you want to slow down

and savour them rather than rush along with the characters.

They Did It First:50 Scientists, Artists and Mathematicians Who Changed the World

They Did It First: 50 Scientists, Artists and Mathematicians Who Changed the World
Julie Leung and Caitlin Kuhwald (edited by Alice Hart)
Macmillan Children’s Books

This book profiles 50 STEAM boundary-breaking trailblazers – pioneering artists, scientists and mathematicians – each of whom overcame enormous challenges to make incredible contributions in their own fields, and in one way or another, change the world for the better.

Some Julie Leung selected will already be familiar to readers – Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing,

Jane Goodall, Toni Morrison, Aretha Franklin, for example, but  that many others will probably not be.

It’s clear that the author has made an effort to feature men and women from around the world, as well as choosing from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Thus she highlights Nikola Tesla, the first person to invent the AC motor (1887) Johanna Lucht the first deaf engineer to help manage a crewed NASA flight from mission control – “Never give up” she advises aspiring deaf engineers and scientists” with time and patience … “you will gain hearing allies.” along with the first Chinese woman – Tu Youyou – to be awarded a Nobel Prize (2015) in Physiology or Medicine.

New to me are Alexa Canady who faced an uphill struggle as a woman of colour, to become the first female African American neurosurgeon;

she specialised in paediatric care, saving numerous young lives.

I’d not heard either of Riz Ahmed, first EMMY Award winner for acting (2017) who is of Asian descent;

and other than her name I knew little about Zaha Hadid, the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004).

The subjects, arranged chronologically, mostly came to prominence in the 20th or 21st centuries, although Isaac Newton (1668) is there, as are two 18th century people Maria Gaetana Agnesi, an Italian mathematician, and German astronomer Caroline Herschel.

Like me, I suspect youngsters reading this fascinating and inspiring compilation, will be prompted (perhaps by their motivational quote) to do their own digging to discover more about some of these incredible people starting perhaps with some of those for who a vignette portrait with a sentence beneath and a brief paragraph on the next spread, are all we’re given. To that end there is a final list of books and other resources.

Also at the end of the book is a time line, as well as a note from the illustrator, Caitlin Kuhwald whose stylised portraits, painted digitally, are instantly eye-catching..

Role models for aspiring youngsters, all.

I Am NOT An Elephant

I Am NOT An Elephant
Karl Newson and Ross Collins
Macmillan Children’s Books

Hurrah! Team Karl/Ross have created a splendid sequel to their I am a Tiger with star of the show, Mouse, returning in all his naysaying glory, as he struggles against the odds to convince various beasties “I am NOT an elephant.” The odds being in turn, a lizard – who starts the concatenation of pachyderm positive ID-ing, followed by porcupine.

This sets our little rodent off doing some noisy acrobatics as evidence.

It’s of little use though, for up rocks a third creature going on about poor Mouse’s pong.

This leads him to make a shall we say, unwise claim, which almost ends in disaster; but our quick thinking Mouse tries another tack that includes some rather creative thinking,

culminating in a flying leap into unknown territory.

But hey! What’s this? If you’ve been observant from the outset, you’ll have noticed that Mouse reclining against a large subungulate foot nibbling a tasty fruit, and by now he’s rather anxious to finish dining so long as he’s not put off by any unexpected malodourous whiffs … after which it’s probably time to do away with his final claim and break into rhyme.

That way leaves the stage wide open for a third glorious episode of hilarity courtesy of Karl and Ross. They’ll be hard pressed to get Mouse to out-perform his show-stopping theatrics in this superb piece of silliness though.

Runaway Robot

Runaway Robot
Frank Cottrell-Boyce, illustrated by Steven Lenton
Macmillan Children’s Books

After being in a road accident, twelve year old Alfie has been fitted with a prosthetic hand – this makes him ‘a bit bionic’ he tells us. Along with the loss of his hand though, the boy has lost his confidence.

He explains how he bunks school( aka Limb Lab) – ‘swerving school’ he calls it, and instead of joining in the “New Life’ lessons he goes to hang out at the arrivals lounge of the airport.

On one such swerving occasion Alfie accidentally loses his state-of-the-art hand. At lost property, instead of his hand, the lad finds Eric, a six-foot tall, metal robot with a propensity for singing the national anthem. “I AM YOUR OBEDIENT SERVANT” Eric announces and “I CAN ANSWER ANY QUESTION” (except the ones he doesn’t know the answer to, that is.)

Eric too is missing a limb, one if his legs. Despite this, unlike the other robots Alfie decides Eric is anything but ‘a disappointing robot’. Indeed, he declares him ‘the most-not-disappointing robot you could ever meet’.

It’s no surprise then that the boy will do everything he can to keep the illegal Eric from being crushed at the R-U-Recycling scrapyard.

No easy task as despite his fine manners, Eric takes instructions literally, which inevitably gives rise to a fair few problems.

But with reports of a rogue robot at large terrifying the estate, should Alfie even be bent on saving Eric?

Alfie’s world might be full of things robotic (he does make some new human friends too) though in essence this story is about what being human really means.

With a plot that makes you both laugh and cry, that’s what makes Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s highly original book so satisfying. Add to that a sprinkling of Steven Lenton’s smashing illustrations and what you have is an unmissable treat.

 

Max & the Midknights

Max & The Midknights
Lincoln Peirce
Macmillan Children’s Books

Author/cartoonist Lincoln Peirce mixes comic strip and conventional prose to plunge readers back to the Middle Ages in this enormously engaging, madcap tale of young Max who longs to become a knight.

Max, (who acts as narrator), lives with Uncle Budrick, a totally inept troubadour in whose footsteps, as tradition dictates, the youngster is supposed to follow.

When ‘Sir Budrick’, as the side of his wagon announces, is taken captive by the evil throne usurper King Ghastly, Max and some other kids form The Midknights with the intention of storming the enormous castle where Budrick is imprisoned, rescuing him and restoring kindness to the kingdom.

First though they have to do battle with wicked sorceress, Fendra,

and ghastly, grimy, winged rats; oh and there’s a dragon too.

Then of course, there’s the thorny issue of gender – only boys can be knights – and the fact that your uncle can by accident, become a duck.

The dialogue between the young characters is entirely child appropriate and funny, and there’s plenty of word play and jokes as well, along with lashings of kindness and bravery.

Cleverly woven into the mix too are thought-provoking ideas relating to gender and being able to determine your own future no matter what. I absolutely love the King’s final declaration and the children’s confirmation that “Any child, boy or girl, may become a writer … or a magician … or a knight”.

Finally, a new chapter begins in Byjovian history and Max’s armour certainly shines bright.

Oh, Christmas Tree! / The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas / Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oh, Christmas Tree!
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Macmillan Children’s Books

There’s seasonal silliness in abundance in team Sue and Paul’s rhyming tale of a Christmas tree that doesn’t want to be. Said Tree is determined not to be dressed in baubles, tinsel and other festive fripperies so it decides to take a stand; or rather it decides to do anything but. Instead it’s dashing madly away from its decorative pursuers.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not Christmas the tree hates, rather it’s the idea of being instead of doing that’s really needling its branches.

“I truly love Christmas” asserts the tree and the idea of presents is appealing and that’s what gives Belle an idea. A new outfit might just suit the occasion especially if it equips the recipient to participate in winter sports. But perhaps there’s more to Belle’s clever gift than meets the eye …

The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas
Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey
Egmont

With the seemingly never waning enthusiasm a certain section of the population has with unicorns, I have a feeling there’s an inevitability about this book.

Narrated by a character who is pretty close to those I refer to, clad in her unicorn onesie a bright eyed miss starts the countdown informing readers that on the first day of Christmas she receives, courtesy of mum and dad, along with 1 sparkling tree, ‘a real-life unicorn’.

From then on, said unicorn is included in the festive giving both as giver and receiver of surprise presents. Unsurprisingly with a high-spirited unicorn on the scene there are a few mishaps as the days go by

and the creature begins to lose some if its sparkle. Come Christmas morning though a big surprise awaits him …

With her zesty illustrations that offer plenty of things to count, Ada Grey captures the inherent humour in Timothy’s telling ensuring a giggle at every page turn of this festive romp.

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas
Lou Carter and Nikki Dyson
Orchard Books

It’s Christmas Eve and as usual Oscar the Unicorn is hungry, exceedingly so. He’s already started scoffing the stockings belonging to the royals, not to mention a large part of the Christmas tree and to Santa’s horror he’s had a go at the presents too. Then shock horror Santa discovers that the magic reindeer food has disappeared

and without food the creatures won’t be able to fly, which means Santa can’t complete his delivery round. I love Nikki’s exuberant scenes of Oscar’s chaos creating frolics and especially the sight of the far from happy reindeer on the final spread.

But we know where that food has gone; so perhaps little Princess Oola’s suggestion for a substitute sleigh puller might just save the special day.

Delightfully daft but Oscar’s fans will relish it for sure.

Christmas Comes to Moominvalley

Christmas Comes to Moominvalley
Alex Haridi, Cecilia Davidsson and Filippa Widlund
Macmillan Children’s Books

I’ve adored Tove Jansson’s Moomins since I was a child and it’s wonderful to be back in Moominvalley with an adaptation of Tove’s classic The Fir Tree story by contemporary Scandi. authors Alex Haridi and Cecilia Davidsson with illustrations by Filippa Widlund.

Without further ado let’s head over to Moominvalley where the Moomin family are all nestled in for their long winter sleep. Not so Hemulen though who crash lands unceremoniously into their attic and then proceeds to disturb the slumberers and tell them about Christmas, something they too should be getting ready for.

Now being as they’re normally asleep the Moomins know nothing about this Christmas business save that it sounds dreadful.
Once wide awake though, they climb out onto the roof from whence Hemulen came and from there they spy a friend who tells them they need a fir tree before night falls.

While the others are donning their warm attire and going off to obtain the tree, Moominmamma discovers a tiny little creature shivering beneath the veranda and she invites it in for a hot drink.

It’s with the help of this tiny being that they manage eventually to adorn their tree and rustle up some favourite foods. But just when they think everything is going well, Hemulen reappears with talk of presents so they too are organised, after which the Moomins sit back and wait for disaster to strike.

Meanwhile the little creature has assembled all its friends and relations – just in time for Moominmamma to make a special announcement that will bring all those woodies, toffles and creeps the most wonderful Christmas surprise ever.
And who cares if something other than a star is atop their Christmas tree – or is it?

Then with their fears and misunderstandings set aside, there’s only one thing for the Moomins to do: retire to bed once more and wait for spring.

Perfect wintry reading to snuggle down with – it’s gently humorous, reassuring and gives you a wonderfully warm feeling inside.