Pink! / Alfred and the Blue Whale

It’s always good to discover new publishers so Red Reading Hub was excited to come across Wacky Bee Books to whom thanks for sending these for review.

Lynne Rickards and Margaret Chamberlain
Wacky Bee

Patrick is a penguin, a pretty ordinary young penguin until one morning, shock horror; he wakes up and discovers he’s turned pink overnight.

Dr Black is no help suggesting that he tries getting used to his new hue. “But I’m a BOY! And BOYS CAN’T BE PINK!’ is his response.

At school, his fellow penguins tease Patrick until he’s had enough. Deciding he wants to fit in, he packs his rucksack and sets off to find the African flamingos his Dad had showed him in a bird book.

It’s a seven-day, seven-night swim but Patrick is a powerful swimmer and on day eight he reaches his destination.
The flamingos are friendly, inviting the newcomer to join them for lunch; but the visitor’s beak is all wrong, so things go very badly.

The same is true when Patrick tries out other things flamingo, like standing on one leg.

Patrick realises he doesn’t fit in here either.

Back home he swims. His parents welcome him; and then to his surprise, so too do his schoolmates. Indeed they’re mightily impressed by what their pink pal has to tell them about his travels; now being pink is cool.

Acceptance rules: not only Patrick but also his classmates have realised that real friends love you no matter how different you might appear on the outside.

With Margaret Chamberlain’s characterful illustrations, Lynne Rickards’ story of Patrick’s learning journey will help little ones both at home and in early years settings understand that diversity is something to be celebrated, as well as help challenge gender stereotypes.

Alfred and the Blue Whale
Mina Lystad, (trans. Sian Mackie) illustrated by Ashild Irgens
Wacky Bee

This is one of the publisher’s Buzzy Reads titles for those readers just starting to fly solo and has been translated from the author’s original Norwegian.

Young Alfred is scared of lots of things, but his worst nightmare is speaking in front of the class. Imagine how he feels then when he learns that everyone must take their turn to talk to the others about the animal named on the paper his teacher gives them.

Alfred’s animal is the Blue Whale and all he wants to do at the thought of the following Friday is to hide away.

Little by little though, he starts collecting information about the creature and the more he discovers, the more interested he becomes, so much so that he forgets about his nerves …

until Friday morning.

But then those scared feelings come flooding back. Can he summon up the courage to share all that Blue Whale information he has in his head with his classmates?

The author seamlessly includes a number of easily digested Blue Whale facts in her very readable story about facing your fears and self belief. (There’s also a final double spread fact file.)

Ashild Irgens’ plentiful illustrations convey so well Alfred’s fluctuating emotions over the five days from Monday till Friday.

Exploring Feelings


Made by Raffi
Craig Pomranz and Margaret Chamberlain
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Raffi feels different from the other children at school and asks himself why. He knows he shies away from rough and noisy play, preferring instead to spent time in quiet, peaceful places. One day he notices a teacher sitting knitting and she offers to teach him how to do it.


Soon Raffi is knitting and loving it, so much so that when he gets home he persuades his parents to let him buy some wool.
Having done so, he decides to knit a multi-coloured scarf for his dad’s birthday. However, so enthusiastic is Raffi, knitting at every opportunity, that he is laughed at by schoolmates on the bus, as the rainbow scarf trails everywhere.
That evening at home, Raffi talks to his mother about feeling different. “Do you think I’m … girly?” he asks. His mother’s sensible words reassure Raffi and then the following day at school, an announcement about the school play inspires him to use his creative talents to design and make a wonderful cloak for Barry, the lead actor in the school play, to wear for his performance.


Raffi gains the respect of all his classmates and self esteem boosted, thinks about becoming a designer in the future. In the meantime, there’s that scarf to finish and all manner of other projects to work on –
Best of all perhaps though is Barry’s comment on seeing Raffi knitting some weeks later … “Cool,” he said.
This story is a great advocate for creativity, demonstrating that differences should be celebrated as well as promoting the idea that everyone should have the confidence to be true to him or herself without fear of being made to feel inferior or being laughed at.
There is at least one Raffi in every class so I truly hope this book goes some way to deterring potential bullies: there must be no room for bullying in any shape or form.
Margaret Chamberlain’s illustrations too celebrate diversity and sympathetically portray Raffi’s changing emotions as he embarks on his journey of self-discovery.
Definitely a book to share and discuss with children in primary classes everywhere.
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My Big Brother Boris
Liz Pichon
Scholastic pbk
Boris has a birthday party but it seems to Little Croc that his big brother has started acting in a very odd manner telling the small narrator that he’s grown out of childish games, and wanting to spend all his time with his friends or sleeping. Mum is understanding and reminds Little Croc that there are preparations to finish before the party can start, even though the chief guest has yet to get up. When he does finally make an appearance, horror of horrors: Boris is sporting a shiny snout ring.


Parental ranting follows and Boris storms off to his room. His guests arrive and then it’s down to Granny and Grandpa Croc and their younger grandson to save the day with a special party game of ‘guess who’s in the photos’.



Harmony restored, Boris has, so he announces to all, “the best party EVER.” and reassumes his place as best big brother.
Young children with teenage siblings will recognize Boris and his behaviour; this funny story (a reissue) offers the opportunity to explore the feelings around the topic through a reassuring and amusing scenario. Liz Pichon’s pictures are a hoot and crammed with delicious details both visual and verbal.
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How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear?
Jane Evans and Laurence Jackson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The author, Jane Evans has worked with families and children affected by domestic violence for many years and as a result of numerous requests from parents, carers and support workers she created this book to help adults trying to enable young children to make sense of the feelings they experienced when they were frightened and confused.
The story revolves around Baby Bear and his feelings


(sensitively portrayed in the illustrations) as the Big Bears shout and rant at each other
until one leaves the family home.


Using a family of bears rather than human characters perhaps helps create some distance -a space within which children feel safe to discuss and explore those feelings and emotions.
On some pages there are prompts for adults that can be used to start conversations with young children and at the back of the book are some activities and games to facilitate the understanding and expression of difficult emotions. Wearing my children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher’s hat, I particularly like the ‘tummy sunshine’ and the ‘grey rainy’ sad feelings. (Incidentally these can be useful with all young children).
I recommend this little book to all working with children affected by domestic violence whatever the setting.
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Worries Go Away!
Kes Gray and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
The little girl narrator of this rhyming story shares with readers what happens when she is feeling sad: she goes off to her own world inside her head.


There she feels free and at first everything is perfect but then once again, those worries begin to take hold, growing monstrous. Under a now blackened sky,


the monsters give chase as, tripping and stumbling, the little girl makes for safety. She discovers a door in the darkness but where is the key? Through the keyhole, on the other side she discovers people waiting, waiting for her to open the door –


the door of her heart and let them in. That’s when all those worries dissipate as she feels engulfed by love and not only that, she knows that next time there will be somebody waiting to share her troubles with.
The tension is palpable as the tentacles of the blotchy orange amorphous monsters seek to entangle the narrator’s thoughts in Lee Wildish’s powerful pictures: it’s almost as if the swirls are transformed into her curly tresses as she breaks free through the door.
Children do become engulfed by worries, letting those, to adults seemingly small troubles, become enormous and overwhelming. Kes Gray’s pacing of the rhyming text somehow helps to keep under control, the rising panic of the little girl and gives space for her to realize the way through.
Not a story for an everyday story session, rather it’s one to share and discuss as part of a PSE (personal, social and emotional development) programme for young children.
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Baby Booms, Blues and Bumps


Boom, Baby, Boom Boom!
Margaret Mahy and Margaret Chamberlain
Frances Lincoln
As with any text penned by Margaret Mahy (what a sad loss she is), this one sparkles throughout with wit and joie de vie. We meet a smiling, musical Mama and her small offspring who is, in the first spread, being placed in her high chair in preparation for the delicious meal she is about to consume. That is the plan anyhow; what happens is altogether different. Unknown to Mama, who is ready for a spot of relaxing drumming, she is watched by a whole host of farmyard animals listening intently at the open window.


As she drums the baby tosses each item of her wholesome spread onto the floor starting with the cheese. In dashes the yellow cat and hastily consumes it. So begins a concatenation of food hurling and animal consuming as the brown dog, red rooster and hens, black-faced sheep


and brown- and-white cow all dash in and gratefully gobble in turn, the bread and honey, apple slices, lettuce leaves and carrots and then exit again. Back comes an envigorated mama, spies the empty plate, congratulates the baby on eating her lunch and after hugs and kisses, feeds her a banana. And guess what, that
baby ate it all up.
The story is an absolute joy to read aloud and Margaret Chamberlain splendidly captures the upbeat tenor of the telling in her hilarious illustrations and at the same time, adds her own humorous touches, further adding to the book’s sparkling delights.
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Baby’s Got the Blues
Carol Diggory Shields and Lauren Tobia
Walker Books
How does it feel to be a baby? Have you ever wondered from your adult standpoint? Well, here we have it, told from the viewpoint of the baby narrator of this book.
They certainly don’t have it easy – well definitely not this one, indeed it’s enough to give you the blues, the baby blues no less. Soggy nappies in sleep suits, stinky dampness,


unsatisfying yucky, gum friendly food, falling over flat and behind those jail-like bars blues.


But, then come the compensatory cuddles and kisses and I love yous; just what’s needed to chase away those
B-A-B-Y’  blues  – oh yeah!
Actually though, life is not quite as bad as all that. In this up-to the minute family, Baby’s Mum is a pony-tailed wearer of jogging bottoms with loving, scoop you up arms ready at just the right moment and there is an older, red-haired sibling who sports a princess crown and knows just how to make sure she is always part of the action.
With its swinging, catchy and chantable text and delicious scenes that capture small domestic details to perfection, (big sister and baby wearing matching bibs for instance,) this is likely to become a firm favourite wherever there is a bouncing babe. Lauren Tobia seems set to follow in Helen Oxenbury’s footsteps.
In a word, gorgeous.
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Emily Peppermint’s Toy School
Jeanne Willis and Vanessa Cabban
Walker Books
It’s the first day of term at Emily Peppermint’s educational establishment but what is on the curriculum for the new pupils? Unlike other schools, the main subject, Emily informs toys Gumbo, Little Ted, Edie, Shmoo and Tinny Tim. is ‘children’ and where best to start? With babies, of course. ‘ “Babies aren’t made like toys,” explained Emily. “They’re born and grow into children.” ‘Grow?” gasped Edie. “If I grew, my knickers wouldn’t fit!” “You forgot to put them on,” said Gumbo.’


So, that’s development dealt with in brief.
Now onto practical lessons: We larger humans all know what babies in prams do with their toys. So, the next important thing to learn is how to fall out of a pram safely when ejected baby- style; hard hats are needed for this one.


All teachers know the value of using the outdoors as a learning environment so the class moves alfresco, to the top of a hill no less. First to jump, or rather fling himself, is Tinny Tin. His jump triggers a frantic downhill chase with the toys ending up SPLAT! in a muddy heap.
There’s only one thing for it – the next lesson … swimming.


Much of Jean Willis’s text is in the form of dialogue spoken between the toys themselves or Emily and her pupils; it is full of gentle humour and the idea of presenting babies from a toys’ perspective is inspired. Vanessa Cabban beautifully captures that humour in her diverting scenes of classroom capers and comical misadventures.
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This is me, EATING!
Neal Layton
Walker Books
This is a deliciously upbeat addition to the ‘first experiences’ series of board books. Herein we meet Mum, Dad, Dog, Granny, Worm and the small, totally endearing infant narrator, as they eat ‘a crunchy apple’, ‘a sticky sandwich’, ‘a big bone’, ‘smelly cheese’, ‘mucky mud’ and


‘lots of things’ respectively. Just half a dozen spreads but so much to relish both visually and verbally; altogether a tasty treat for the very youngest. In addition, with its patterned text and illustrations that are closely matched with the large print sentences, young beginning readers might well whet their palates on this one.
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I Love You, Baby
Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd
Orchard Books
A happy-sounding, shock-haired toddler introduces the brand new baby:
One fat tummy, tight like a drum. Two little cheeks on one little bum!


We share a family day together, with Mum who drives the car, Dad who baths the babe (along with elder sibling).


Then they sit down to a snack together, take a walk with babe tucked up tight in the pram,


back home for a squishy, kissy cuddle up, another bathing session for the babe followed by a goodnight cuddle and kiss on those ‘two warm cheeks, all rosy and bright,
Finally it’s time for sleep and the toddler and parents gaze adoringly at the sleeping newcomer to their family. All the while, the focus is on the little babe though the charming narrator, sporting a number 1 T-shirt, seems pretty sure of his place in the pecking order and remains an equal partner in the action throughout. Let’s just hope this bliss remains!
Another winner from the Andreae/Dodd duo: pleasingly readable, bouncy rhyming text that is pitch-perfect for those oh so cute, child characters, so winningly portrayed.
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