The Pirates are Coming!

The Pirates are Coming!
John Condon and Matt Hunt
Nosy Crow

Can there be room on the shelf for yet more pirate books? It’s pretty likely as children seem to have a penchant for things piratical; and John Condon and Matt Hunt’s salty offering will definitely be a crowd pleaser.

It tells of young Tom who daily climbs the hill overlooking the sea in the hope of spying a pirate ship; and one day he does – so he thinks.

He rings a bell and all the villagers dash for cover; turns out though, that it’s a case of misidentification. Tom’s dad reminds him pirates have ‘BIG’ ships. Undaunted, Tom continues his daily watch but again and again he gets it wrong, needlessly sending the villagers into hiding.

Unsurprisingly they begin to get blasé and so the next time Tom yells “PIRATES” as he rushes down the hill,

not a single person hides – until that is, they hear the tell-tale “squawk!’ of a parrot.

Here, the tale takes a twist and the finale is a wonderful surprise. I certainly don’t want to be a story spoiler so I’ll leave the villagers in hiding and the pirates sailing silently into the harbour, gangplank at the ready …

John Condon’s story is full of drama, and superbly paced, with plenty of laughs along the way: further laughs will be induced thanks to Matt Hunt’s splendid illustrations. On every spread there’s something giggle worthy – rather, make that several things.

If you enjoy putting on a performance with your story sharing, you’ll absolutely relish reading this one with a group of youngsters and they’ll love it too.

Early Years Picture Book Shelf

How About a Night Out?
Sam Williams and Matt Hunt
Boxer Books

We join a kitty cat embarking on a nocturnal excursion through the city where  adventures aplenty await. There are friends to meet for a ‘catercall’ upon the wall,

a roundabout to ride upon, birds to scare and much more. A ‘night to sing about’ claims our adventurer but all too soon the sun comes up and it’s time to head for home and some city kitty slumbers.

Delivered in jaunty rhyming couplets and Matt Hunt’s alluring art showing the cat’s journey against the inky dark sky, this will surely please early years listeners.

What Colour Is Night?
Grant Snider
Chronicle Books

If you’re thinking night is black, then have another think. You certainly will having read Grant Snider’s poetic nocturnal exploration. Herein he shows us the multitude of colours that a closer look will reveal. There’s blue for a start, ‘a big yellow moon beginning to rise’, the fireflies glowing gold in the park.

But that’s just the start: there are ‘Fat brown moths dancing in yellow streetlights’, a whole city lit with red neon signs, the green-eyed glow of prowling raccoons, silver stars spilling across the sky above the barely visible countryside.

The silent stillness of his scenes though, is not confined to the outdoors. Inside we see the grey face of a clock, the shapes afloat in the bowl holding a midnight snack are yellow blue and pink; while through the window we start to see the moon’s rings and outdoors once more are ‘all the night’s colours in one moonbow’.

I’m pretty sure that young readers and listeners will envy the sleeping child picked up and taken on a dream flight through pink and purple clouds over the city aglow with colours. Snider offers an ideal excuse for little ones to request a delay to their own slumbers in order to view those ‘colours unseen’.

What Can You See?
Jason Korsner and Hannah Rounding
I Like to Put Food in My Welly
Jason Korsner and Max Low
Graffeg

What Can You See? invites little ones to develop their observation skills as they focus on in turn a table laid for tea, a lounge, the garden, the sky, the jungle, a flower and a host of other focal points to locate the objects named in the relevant verse in Hannah Rounding’s delectable illustrations.
In I Like to Put Food in My Welly, playful topsy-turvies result from putting butter on the bread, pulling a rabbit from a hat, climbing an apple tree and other starting points, each scenario being presented in Max Low’s zany sequences (Did I see two of Max’s popular characters making a guest appearance?)

Engaging rhymes and art: just right for putting across the ‘language is fun’ message to pre-schoolers.

Oink! / Daddy Fartypants

In your face or subtle, toilet humour books are always winners with young children: here are a couple of recent, contrasting examples:

Oink!
David Elliot
Gecko Press

David Elliot tells this hilarious tale entirely through delicate watery scenes of a pig’s bathtime along with onomatopoeic sound effects, mostly animal but punctuated by ‘Knock! Knock! (s)

It starts with pig climbing into his, one assumes, eagerly anticipated steaming bath-tub; but he’s no sooner sat back for a relaxing soak when ‘ Knock! Knock!’ “Maaa?” a sheep clad in pink frilly skirt and clutching a toy boat enters and proceeds to climb into the tub. (Her utterance, one assumes is a polite request).

Further knocks see more unruly creatures, first a horned bovine character …

followed by an ungulate (donkey/horse?) ensconcing themselves in pig’s increasingly noisy bath.

Pig though utters not a sound but then … One tub-emptying action later

 

things – or actually animals – start to move …

Peace at last! Time to top up the hot water and relax. Ahhhh! Bliss.

No telling – just showing – and absolutely brilliantly done in Elliott’s subtly comic, brilliantly expressive pencil and watercolour scenes.

An absolutely smashing pre-bedtime sharing book for which your little humans will delight in supplying the various noises. If I was in an early years setting I’d set up a small world play scene complete with tub and animals for the children to act out the tale.

Daddy Fartypants
Emer Stamp and Matt Hunt
Orchard Books

Meet dad bear, farty bum extraordinaire. The trouble is no matter how clear it is that’s he’s the culprit when it comes to noxious rear end emissions, he never never owns up to his trumps and parps. Instead he blames others, no matter who, no matter where, no matter when.

Not a single apology or pardon so much as reaches his lips, no not ever.

One day when collecting his forbearing son from school, Daddy Fartypants encounters an attractive new teacher, Miss Lovelybear and as he eagerly approaches, she lets loose a gargantuan gust from her derrière. And does that teacher issue an excuse? Oh dear me, no she does not: instead she points the paw at guess who … Outrageous!

Game, set and match to Miss L. Her terrible toot triggers a realisation on Daddy F’s part. Repentant, he promises to become a changed character when it comes to rear end rumbles and so far as we know he’s been true to his word.

Totally terrific fun, Emer Stamp has come up trumps with this thoroughly moral tale, and Matt Hunt’s splendid, sonic blast, pant-ripping illustrations speak volumes – quite literally. PHOOAW! Your little ones will relish this book as did this reviewer whose partner could give Daddy Fartypants a run for his money when it comes to windy issuances – he does own up though, I hasten to add.

Little People, Big Dreams: Muhammad Ali & Little People, Big Dreams: Stephen Hawking

Little People, Big Dreams: Muhammad Ali
Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Brosmind
Little People, Big Dreams: Stephen Hawking
Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Matt Hunt
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Following the huge success of titles celebrating amazing and inspiring females, the publishers have decided to add positive male role models to their picture book biography series and these are the first two.

First on the list is Muhammad Ali who as a boy known as Cassius had his new bike stolen and was told by the police officer that if he wanted to face the thief as he’d said, he had better learn to fight. So begins his journey to becoming a champion boxer.

Having taken a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics he was determined to turn professional and win the world heavyweight championship,

which he did, defeating Sonny Liston in 1964.

Cassius however was not just a boxer; he was fierce defender of African-American rights speaking out against racial discrimination. He converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

His refusal to fight in the Vietnam war, a war he considered unjust, resulted in him being stripped of his heavyweight title and banned from boxing for three years.

However he came back and won three more heavyweight titles; and after his retirement spent his time in the service of others.

With their illustrations, the Mingarro brothers, aka Brosmind, bring a gentle humour to the account of this legendary man.

Published in March is a second title, Stephen Hawking, about the scientific genius who overcame THE most enormous odds and went on to become the most brilliant scientist of our time.

We read how while studying physics at Oxford University Stephen first began to be clumsy and then having moved to Cambridge University to do a PhD, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and told, aged 21, that he had just a few years left to live.

Rather than spending his time dwelling upon his lack of control over his body, he decided that in order to study the universe, he needed only his mind.

Black holes became the focus of his attention and Stephen proved that rather than being wholly black, there was a tiny light escaping from them; this was named ‘Hawking radiation’.

We’d all do well to remember Stephen’s words, “however difficult life may seem, there is always something that you can do and succeed at.” An inspiration he truly remains and this is what writer Isabel Sánchez Vegara and illustrator Matt Hunt convey so well herein.

Add these to your primary school collection.

Cinderfella

Cinderfella
Malachy Doyle and Matt Hunt
Walker Books

I do love a fractured fairy tale and Malachy Doyle has smashed the Cinderella story well and truly with this funky, bang up-to-date rendition.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Cinderfella himself but he has two thoroughly undesirable, enormously lazy, extremely bossy older brothers named Gareth and Gus.

You can just imagine their reaction when an invitation arrives announcing junior karate champion Kayleigh’s birthday bash. Cinders is most definitely not on the guest list, they inform him.
However, once the two have scooted off to strut their stuff at the dance, Ruff comes upon the invitation and all is revealed …

With his brothers out of the way, there’s nothing to prevent Cinderfella from raiding their wardrobe and sure enough, therein he finds the perfect gear to disguise and make himself look the height of cool. Ruff too discovers something that’s just the ticket. Now all they need to do is make sure they get home before Gus and Gareth. Gear and carriage sorted and it’s off they go.

At the party, Kayleigh is singularly unimpressed at the preponderance of Groovy Chicken dancers but then she catches sight of somebody whose moves are altogether different: he and his canine pal are doing the Funky Monkey and she wants to join them …
They dance the night away – well almost

– but then Cinderfella’s watch reminds him that it’s time to scoot and off he and Ruff dash, Cinders dropping his sunglasses in his wake.

No prizes for guessing who picks up those shades and then the search is on.

Will the ace disco boppers be reunited and live as far-out friends ever after.

Matt Hunt is the perfect illustrative partner for Malachy Doyle here: his hip guys and gals are a wonderfully inclusive cast of characters and those party scenes are certain to make you want to get up and swing your hips to and fro, swing those hips and go, go, go as you too join in with that Funky Monkey. You might even be tempted to try a few karate kicks too.
Utterly irresistible.

Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle
Matt Hunt
Scholastic Children’s Books
Town life doesn’t suit Lion: he dreams of clear sunny skies, wind in his mane, sand in his paws and, his guitar. Nothing more. So when he spies a ‘beach house for sale’ advert he cannot believe his luck. That very evening he packs the necessities – mostly strawberry smoothies – and heads off over land, air and sea until he reaches the island of his dreams. There, he takes up residence and thus, his perfect existence commences …

What joy to wake to the sounds of parrots and splashing waves, to breakfast on succulent coconuts and strum a guitar to your heart’s content. Soon though, unsurprisingly, Lion begins to feel lonely; but how can he communicate his need for a pal without a phone or mail service?

Sunlight moment! Lion decides to write a message, pop it in one of the many bottles he has (sans smoothie of course) and drop it into the sea. No response. Lion writes more messages, puts them into more empty bottles – many bottles, tosses them into the sea, watches them disappear, and sleeps …
What happens thereafter, is not exactly what Lion had hoped;

but suffice it to say without giving the whole thing away, all ends happily and … rather noisily. Which all goes to show that you don’t always know what will make you happy; and that stepping out of your comfort zone, embracing difference and welcoming new arrivals can work wonders.
A timely, important message for readers and, a tumultuous one for Lion. Matt Hunt delivers both with verve and humour.

I’ve signed the charter  

How do you do, Mr Gnu? / What’s More Scary?

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How do you do, Mr Gnu?
Billy Coughlan and Maddie Frost
Maverick Arts Publishing
Gnu has received a royal invitation, to take tea with Her Majesty the Queen no less. First though he needs to polish up his etiquette and for this he has plenty of role models: the dogs with their polite begging “Woof” Woofs for starters and then there’s that “Caw” of raven’s: that’s definitely worth imitating especially with those spindly legs of his flapping like wings. The fish have such eloquent “Glug”s that Gnu just cannot help but try emulating those …

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Add to that the dinosaur’s “ROAR”; the refined “Neigh” of the guardsman’s horse, not to mention the raspberry blowing from a little girl (think twice Mr Gnu, before you try that one on Her Majesty. Err …

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With its wonderful, final piece de resistance, “Pfffffft” this lesson in manners is sure to have your audiences in fits. They’ll love joining Gnu in trying out the other exquisitely mannered expositions and actions of the other animals so amusingly portrayed in Maddie Frost’s hilarious scenes too. Prepare yourself for a noisy story session when you share this beauty.

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What’s More Scary?
Min Flyte and Matt Hunt
Nosy Crow
This ‘choose-the-flap’ adventure takes readers along with the little boy narrator for a jungle adventure. First though he has to pack his rucksack with the appropriate gear, (especially according to his mum, a toothbrush) and don his rosy red wellies – just the thing for a camouflaged safari walk.

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Off goes the lad along the jungle path and before long he hears some alarming sounds; seemingly he’s being followed but then comes a fork in the path: which way should he go? Crisis averted, it’s time to proceed but again the path divides and another choice needs making – or not! Well yes in a way but a spot of tree climbing is required.

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And so it goes on with a bit of dangling, followed by rowing and another fork – in the river this time, with a croc one way and piranhas the other. Next there’s a choice between a tree with a snake, or one with a grumpy gorilla, to climb; then inside a cave, our narrator, aka “Jimmy” is confronted with something with the scariest ever eyes: what could that be? The little guy has had enough of safari-ing and beats a hasty path back home: has he escaped though?
With a final choice left to the reader, Flyte and Hunt’s flap-filled foray into the wild, has plenty to engage and involve youngsters.

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