Why? / It Isn’t Rude to be Nude

Billy Dunne and Rhys Jeffreys
Maverick Publishing

Young children are innately curious about the world around them, always asking questions and wanting to discover new things. So it is here with the girl who is out walking with her dad when he points out a rainbow in the sky saying, “You get them when the rain has passed and the sunshine comes instead.”
“Why?” comes the girl’s softly spoken response. This precipitates a sequence of further questions “Why?” followed by explanations from Dad who speaks first of colours in a light beam being split when they pass through rainy weather;

then the fact that blue light bends a little more than red.
The next “Why” invokes an explanation of this fact. The girl’s whys intensify and Dad moves on to more sophisticated talk. After which the poor fellow is feeling somewhat frazzled and in need of a rest. But still comes another “Why?”

What the guy says in response gets right to the crux of the complex matter but story spoiler I won’t be, so I’ll leave you to wonder or ponder upon this – unless of course you’ve sufficient knowledge of physics to answer for yourself. Whatever the case, his daughter is delighted, and all ends satisfactorily – just about!
Just right for youngsters eager to find out about their world (rainbows in particular) and their weary adult responders.

Billy Dunne’s rhyming narrative making accessible some tricky science, is easy to read aloud (great final throwaway comment from the daughter) and is well complemented by Rhys Jefferys’ illustrations. I love the way he shows the changing expressions of the father as he does his utmost to keep up with and ahead of, his daughter’s “Why”s and his wordless spread showing ‘The complex composition of the photon field’ is a complete contrast to the relatively spare previous ones.

It Isn’t Rude to be Nude
Rosie Haine
Tate Publishing

Open this debut book of Rosie Haines and almost immediately you’re faced with this spread with bums

after which we see nipples (normal things), ‘willies’ (not silly) and vulvas. Thereafter come changes to some parts – boobs might grow, and hair (don’t be scared).
On view too are bodies of all kinds and a variety of body colours and markings

as well as hair (or lack of it). We’re shown people whose bodies stand, sit, or leap and dance, and sometimes strut across the spreads

all with one object in mind – to promote body positivity and to show how bodies change over time as we grow and get older.

Children for the most part do have a positive and healthy attitude to nudity; it’s often the attitudes of adults that trigger those feelings of shame about the naked form and being naked. So, it’s three rousing cheers for Rosie’s book illustrated with a wonderfully warm colour palette and a pleasing fluidity of line.

The Whispering Stones

The Whispering Stones
Saviour Pirotta, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Maverick Arts Publishing

Following on from The Stolen Spear, Wolf is back in his village and now knows that he wants to become a healer like Moon, the current village shaman.

It’s Moon he confides in and the healer is encouraging, offering to become his guide and teacher. Not so however Moon’s son, Rain, who considers it his right to assist and follow his father.

First Moon asks Wolf to accompany him to return the spear from the first story to its rightful owner, now a skeleton in the House of the Dead. Therein he receives a gift. It’s the bird-skull amulet that once hung around the dead healer’s neck.

This amulet gives Wolf seeing-dreams – visions that are not always what they first appear so Moon tells the lad, and if wrongly interpreted could have fatal consequences. A warning to heed if ever there was one.

Then Moon invites Wolf to go with him to a secret shaman ceremony in honour of the Time of Wolf Moon, further infuriating Rain.

During the ceremony Moon is poisoned after drinking from the bowl he’d given to Wolf and inevitably the boy is blamed.

In order to clear his name and save his mentor’s life, Wolf must take the shaman with him and search for a cure. It’s a journey that is long, hard and dangerous, taking them far from their island home

to the Whispering Stones.

Once again this is a gripping tale during which its young protagonist narrator learns much about himself, about the importance of choices and their consequences, about acceptance of past mistakes and the ability to learn from them, and about the power of friendship. And the good thing is that the story ends with Wolf, in the company of his trusted friend, Crow, about to embark on another adventure.

This is a historical series that is both exciting and with its Neolithic period setting, unobtrusively imparts some information about the ancient past.

Davide Ortu helps to bring Stone Age atmosphere to the book with his dramatic illustrations and amulet chapter headings.

Particularly recommended as a lower KS2 class read-aloud as well as for individual readers.

Audrey Orr and the Robot Rage

Audrey Orr and the Robot Rage
Jenny Moore
Maverick Arts Publishing

After a decade of competition entering, Audrey Orr’s mother has finally won a competition prize worth having – a luxury cruise to Norway.

Then Audrey discovers a huge problem: the trip is during term time and her aptly named headteacher, Mr Stickler, won’t countenance giving her time off. He even threatens expulsion: Audrey is devastated.

She’ll have to stay at home with her Grandad.

But then, Grandad notices an unlikely advert in his copy of ‘Men’s Knitting Weekly’ from a firm claiming to make robo-twins. It might just be that he’s found the answer to Audrey’s dilemma of how to be both in school and on the holiday at the same time: a robo-supply pupil created by Professor Droyde. Awesome!

Or is she?

Pretty soon, the twin is up to no good switching herself in an attempt to go on the cruise, not altogether a clever idea especially since the Orr parents are let’s say a trifle eccentric to say the least.

Luckily though Grandpa puts paid to Awesome’s plan and the real Audrey departs with Mum and Dad. Or maybe not.

Surely there can’t now be two Audreys aboard. Perhaps the  passenger who said she saw a girl climbing up the side of the ship is delusional. How Awful!

And Awful is how things get as the villainous robot and the real Audrey vie for control.

There are surprises aplenty in this madcap tale that is both funny – think fungal foot infections and balls of knitting wool – and a tad sinister. At the heart of it all though is a loving family and especially notable is the fond relationship between Audrey and Grandad.

High drama at sea for sure, and definitely not of the usual piratical kind, This reviewer’s now off in search of some of those Soft-Scoop 2000 flavours mentioned just a few times in the story.

Primary Fiction Shelf

The Umbrella Mouse
Anna Fargher, illustrated by Sam Usher
Macmillan Children’s Books

Here’s a war story that’s altogether different. It’s set in London in 1944 and begins in Bloomsbury’s James Smith & Sons Umbrella Shop wherein we meet Pip Hanway and her family of umbrella mice.

When disaster strikes in the form of a bomb on the building, killing her parents, Pip is forced to begin a hazardous hunt for a new home, a home in the Italian hills where her family had its origins.

She is fortunate to meet rescue dog, Dickin, and thus begins a highly unusual tale that draws on true stories of animals caught in the WW2 conflict, a story of resistance, of courage, determination, treachery, sacrifice and bravery.

Anna Fargher’s debut is a powerful, compelling telling that will have readers and listeners charged with emotion as they root for these animals fighting the evil Nazi regime; and with occasional illustrations by Sam Usher of Rain, Sun, Snow and Storm fame to add to the pleasures, the book is strongly recommended for individuals and will also make a great KS2 class read aloud, particularly for those studying WW2.

Turns Out I’m an Alien
Lou Treleaven
Maverick Arts Publishing

The narrator of this zany tale is eleven-year-old Jasper who stands 4ft 6in tall and has green hair and eyes. A highly imaginative child so his teacher tells him, Jason lives with his extremely nice foster parents Mary and Bill Clarkson.
One day in order to bring in some extra cash. Mary and Bill decide to rent out one of the now unused bedrooms.

Before their guest has even arrived, Jasper is beginning to doubt whether his foster parents really are as predictably normal as he’d heretofore thought, especially when he notices Mary cooking what appears to be a kind of glowing green rock and Bill constantly checking the night sky through his binoculars.

Then out of the dark descends a weirdly spherical being with an orange skin uttering greetings from planet Snood and introducing himself as Flarp Moonchaser, “Slayer of the Multi-Headed Muck Monster of Murg” as he stretches forth his hand for Jasper to shake. Moreover, the thing has a strange bag stuffed full of weird and wonderful objects.

I’ll say no more other than that Jasper discovers his alien origins, the children are cascaded into a madcap space adventure to save a planet from the terrible Emperor Iko Iko Iko; there are secret agents, secret, secret agents and things get pretty Gloopy.

Entirely crazy, but readers will be swept along by the unfolding drama, which perhaps doesn’t actually end at The End.

Dennis in Jurassic Bark
Nigel Auchterlounie
Studio Press

Fans of the traditional Beano comic will certainly recognise the characters Minnie the Minx and Walter although this book is a novel, not a comic, albeit with a fair sprinkling of black and white illustrations.

It’s another madcap adventure for Dennis who is plunged back in time 65 million years. First though we find the boy visiting his gran watching a TV news reporter talking about ‘what seems to be a huge mutant, ice-cream stealing seagull’ that Dennis immediately identifies as a Pterodactyl. Dennis however isn’t the only child watching the news item; so too, among others, are his worst enemy Walter and Minnie the Minx.

Before you can say Pterodactyl Dennis finds himself on Duck Island determined to save Beanotown from dinosaur disaster.

There’s no need to be a Dennis fan to be entertained by this madcap romp with its interactive puzzles to enjoy along the way.

Dino Wars: The Trials of Terror

Dino Wars: The Trials of Terror
Dan Metcalf, illustrated by Aaron Blecha
Maverick Arts Publishing

This, the second in a series of four, will be welcomed by those who relished The Rise of the Raptors but equally, new readers will quickly be sucked in to this new adventure of Adam Caine, sister Chloe and friends. They’re still on that quest to obtain all four Dilotron crystals and thus disarm the lab. producing the biological weapon that will wipe out all dinosaur life on their planet; the lab. with the computer that Adam had accidentally activated. Thus far the adventurers have two of those crucial catastrophe-preventing crystals and the hunt is on – urgently.

Their possible location is Pteratopolis, city of pterosaurs, unknown territory for Adam and his gang.There’s a slight snag though, these particular dinos. are flying creatures and Pteratopolis is a fortress with enormously high, wooden walls. Climbing skills are crucial if the friends are to enter. Or, alternatively what about Dag’s suggestion that he makes use of his heli-kit, albeit with some modifications to the metal blades. In other words, the proposal is that Dag turns himself into a living saw mill; it might just work.


It does; now all they have to do is locate the next crystal. What could be easier?

A spot of tree-scaling is needed and inevitably, adventurous Adam is on his way up before his companions can utter, “… break his neck”. But then having reached his destination, he finds himself, courtesy of imprinting, the adopted mother of a newly hatched pterosaur. Oh dear! Consequences again Adam …

Co-existence, co-operation, kindness, diplomacy and daring are all part and parcel of this absorbing, fast-moving,  turning twisting tale; so too are Aaron Blecha’s super comic style illustrations that are scattered throughout the story.

As for securing the object of their quest? You’ll need to secure yourself a copy of the book to find out what happens when Adam and Chloe enter the labyrinth …

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom / Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom
Colin Mulhern
Maverick Arts Publishing

Buttercup Sunshine is the ‘friendliest, most angelic little girl you could ever imagine.’ So thinks Granny Fondant. Why, then, when the woman looks out of her window one fine morning, does she see the child running down Honeysuckle Lane towards her little house wielding a chainsaw? And even more strange, why is she asking Granny for petrol ,of all things?

Buttercup has alarming information to impart: zombies are on the loose and they’re heading towards Buttercup and Granny intent on eating their brains.
Even more alarming is the news that the chainsaw belongs to lumberjack, Mr Blackberry, one of the undead advancing upon them at that very moment.

Time to close the curtain, put the kettle on, make a cuppa, flourish a tray of shortbreads and sit down to hear what Buttercup has to say. Apparently the whole affair had begun with a star.

Seemingly the young lady, aka Agent Sunshine, was investigating a crime one night. The crime being the theft – so she thinks – of a thimble and thus, aided and abetted by the torch, a micro walkie-talkie and fellow detective Barry, who just happens to be a computer-hacking toad , the hunt is on for the mystery thief.

Back to that star. It, we learn was a meteorite that had landed slap bang, in a cemetery right in the centre of the Wicked Woods of Woe. Being Agent Sunshine, she just had to sally forth into those woods and that’s where everything kicked off.

Buttercup encounters Mr Blackberry who suggests that the meteorite might be made of diamonds.
It turns out though, that said meteorite appears to have magical properties capable of rendering dead bodies into a state of undeadness – an undeadness that means being ‘Huuugrry …’.

The question is, will the shortbreads run out before Buttercup has finished telling Granny her tale and if not, how, if at all, does this crazy situation resolve itself?
I’ll merely say that with Buttercup adopting warrior pose, standing firmly beside Granny armed with a pair of her longest knitting needles,

a plan gets underway. A plan entailing a great deal of hammering and banging not to mention needle-clicking, oh, and a vacuum cleaner.

The story is bursting with zany humour to which the author has added a liberal sprinkling of laugh-inducing line drawings; it’s likely to satisfy those who enjoy their giggles mixed with occasional gruesome chills and that I suspect is a lot of young readers.

The same can be said of:

Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot
Michael Rosen, illustrated by Neal Layton
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This, the third in the series starring Malcolm and his awful uncle, has each of them with a plot; hence the crazy title and needless to say Uncle Gobb’s plot isn’t a good one, in fact it’s downright dastardly.

Uncle Gobb is intent on setting up a school right behind the one Malcolm attends; the difference being, this educational establishment, or should I say non-educational, alternative is Dread Shed School of Facts. Now what that has to do with being educational, the author and I both agree upon and I’ll leave you to work it out.

However there’s no need to work out that this is a crackingly bonkers read, equally zanily illustrated by Rosen’s plot partner, Neal Layton whose daft artwork adds further gigglesome moments to this wonderful tale of plot and counter plot.

As to who is the victor of the battle for young brains, I’ll let you work that one out too.
Better still head off down to your nearest bookshop, obtain your own copy and laugh your way through it.

The Wondrous Dinosaurium / My Perfect Pup

The Wondrous Dinosaurium
John Condon and Steve Brown
Maverick Arts Publishing

Danny is thrilled when his mum finally agrees to let him have a pet and he knows what he wants. Not a common or garden cat or dog but something much more exciting – something prehistoric no less. And he knows exactly the place to go: an establishment belonging to Mr Ree.

His first choice, a Diplodocus requiring vast amounts of vegetation every day quickly proves too much, so it’s back to the shop for something slightly smaller.

In fact Danny returns to Mr Ree’s Wondrous Dinosaurium quite a few times, trying out a range of possibilities …

until finally he comes upon a box in a dark corner of the shop.

His mum thinks he’s brought home a tortoise but she’s in for a surprise when the creature comes out of its shell.

John Condon’s amusing tale about the pitfalls of not doing any research before choosing a pet will hit the spot with both dinosaur lovers and pet people.
Steve Brown’s illustrations of the dinosaur menagerie are at once droll and yet recognisably authentic dinosaur species: avid dinosaur fans may well be able to put names to all Mr Ree’s stock of creatures, one of which was new to this reviewer.

My Perfect Pup
Sue Walker and Anil Tortop
New Frontier Publishing

Siblings Max and Millie have definite ideas about what they’re looking for as they head for the Perfect Petshop, very different ideas. However they both fall for the same beguiling little pup.

Inevitably though, Tiny, as they decide to call him, doesn’t remain so for very long; nor does he live up to Millie’s ‘pretty’ requirement. In fact he’s so far from perfect by both siblings’ standards …

that one day they return him to the pet shop.

Tiny himself has ideas about the perfect owner and when Joe Barnaby arrives on the scene it looks as though he might just be the one.

Joe and his family live on a farm with sheep, and Joe loves to play, to run and sometimes to take a ride on the dog, now named Horse. What better place for a sheepdog?

Expectations, acceptance and being patient are key themes in Sue Walker’s enjoyable story for which Anil Tortop’s spirited illustrations really bring out Tiny/Horse’s personality.

Arlo, Mrs Ogg and the Dinosaur Zoo / Why is the Cow on the Roof? & Smart Girls Forever

Arlo, Mrs Ogg and the Dinosaur Zoo
Alice Hemming, illustrated by Kathryn Durst
Maverick Arts Publishing

At Purple Hill primary School there’s yet another supply teacher in 4X; they’ve gone through quite a few already so the question is, how long will the strange-looking Mrs Ogg survive, particularly when she decides to take the class on an outing – their first ever – to the zoo? Can she possibly keep seventeen unruly children under control for a whole day? It’s particularly important, for their attendance at the end-of-year party depends upon the trip being 100% trouble free.
Arlo decides it’s unlikely, so he assigns himself the role of chief back-up.

Mrs Ogg however is no ordinary supply teacher and the zoo she’s taking them to is no ordinary zoo, which probably accounts for the inclusion on the ‘don’t forget’ letter sent to parents just prior to the trip, of a T-bone steak.

Is the outing a success and do they arrive back at school with all seventeen children plus teacher safe and sound? And, are they allowed to go to that eagerly anticipated end-of-year party? You’ll have to get hold of a copy of this action packed story and find out.

With its twisting-turning plot, it’s certainly lots of fun. Packed with zany illustrations by Kathyrn Durst

and promises of further adventures to come, let me just say, there’s a whole lot more to class 4X than previous teachers had thought: Mrs Ogg manages to unearth a whole lot of hidden talents therein.

Why is the Cow on the Roof?
Smart Girls Forever

Robert Leeson illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Walker Books

These two books of short stories were first published 20 years ago and they’re as amusing now as ever – great for reading aloud or for solo reading.

Why is the Cow on the Roof? is one of the five folk tale based renditions in the first book, the story being based on the Norwegian, ‘The Husband who was to Mind the House’ and is a hilarious account of what happens when a husband and wife swap their round of daily tasks to see who works hardest.

The other four stories also pose questions including ‘Why are you such a Noddy, Big Ears?’ and “Who’s Next for the Chop?’, the former, a pourquoi tale being based on a Native American ‘Rabbit’ character and the latter from a story in the Arabian Nights..

In each case, Leeson’s renditions are full of humour with plenty of dialogue used to great effect; if you’re reading them aloud to a group, don’t forget to share Axel Scheffler’s funny line drawings that introduce each story.

Smart Girls Forever contains six tales from various parts of the world, all of which have resourceful female lead characters; they are, Leeson tells us ‘Russian, Indian, Irish, Scottish, Persian and English’ but ‘could be from anywhere’.

Look out for Natasha who outwits the devil and Oonagh who gets the better of the terrible giant Cucullin, an act for which her husband Fin M’Coul will be forever grateful.

Not My Hats! / The Great Big Book of Friends

Not My Hats!
Tracy Gunaratnam and Alea Marley
Maverick Arts Publishing

Polar Bear Hettie has an absolute passion for hats, no matter their shape or size Hettie loves to wear them.

Imagine her reaction then as she sits fishing one day when Puffin happens along desirous of a hat. “I’ll share my lollies, my dollies, my books and my brollies, my flippers and my slippers and I’ll even share my kippers … but I’ll never, ever share my HATS,” she tells him in no uncertain terms.

On account of sudden hunger pangs, Puffin settles for the kippers and disappears.

She repeats this litany again when Puffin reappears and this time fobs him off with slippers on account of his chilly tootsies.

Before long Hettie has dozed off dreaming of hat heaven when who should wake her but a certain black and white bird.

On this occasion Puffin suggests swapsies proffering items from his backpack, each of which is resoundingly refused until he suggests a scarf.

Now there’s a possibility: perhaps Hettie could spare the odd titfa after all.

With its plethora of outrageous headwear, this delightfully daft tale that moves in and out of rhyme, demonstrates that language is fun, sharing is best and friendship better than standoffishness.

Friendship is also explored in this non-fiction book:

The Great Big Book of Friends
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Friendship is the theme of the fifth book in Hoffman and Asquith’s Great Big Book series. Herein the book’s creators explore many aspects of the topic starting by asking ‘What is a friend?’ They then go on to look at best friends, friendship groups, what might be shared, difference, pen friends, imaginary friends, objects that can act as friends such as a favourite toy or comforter,

More difficult ideas including falling out, and losing a friend, are also included, as is ‘How many friends?’
Each sub topic is given a double spread and is amusingly illustrated with Ros Asquith’s signature cartoon-style artwork.
With its chatty style and inclusive illustrations, this is a good book to explore with a class or group as part of a PSHE theme.


Alison Donald and Alex Willmore
Maverick Arts Publishing

Alison Donald and Alex Willmore have created a lovely book based on a misunderstanding by one of the main characters.

Tom and Alfred are the best of friends sharing everything and totally inseparable until Tom starts school, leaving Alfred with little to do but remain at home and wait for his pal’s return.

One day though Tom comes home announcing to his parents that he needs a pet – a cute, snuggly one and it has to be totally adorable.

Poor Alfred is worried: what on earth does the word mean, he wonders, and determined not to lose his place in Tom’s affections, sets about finding out.

Having done so he gets to work to make himself fit the bill.
Action plan A is anything but a success so Alfred decides it’s time for plan B – a make-over …

His new look is met with amusement not only by the barn animals, but also by Tom.

Plan C only serves to infuriate Tom: it seems as though being adorable just isn’t a bull thing. Alfred is miserable and in need of some time alone.

But that evening Tom appears carrying a large box, and what a wonderfully heart-winning and unexpected surprise peeps out at its recipient.

The outcome is, no more lonely days for Alfred.

Alison Donald’s funny, warm-hearted tale of friendship is beautifully illustrated by Alex Willmore whose scenes of Alfred and his antics are superbly expressive and like the book’s title, absolutely A-DOR-A-BLE!

Bears Don’t Eat Egg Sandwiches

Bears Don’t Eat Egg Sandwiches
Julie Fulton and Rachel Suzanne
Maverick Arts Publishing

Jack is busy preparing his lunch – egg sandwiches – when there’s a knock on his door. He’s more than a little surprised to discover his visitor is a large bear.
Being a friendly lad, Jack offers him an egg sandwich only to be told firmly, “Bears don’t eat egg sandwiches.

As soon as the bear demands a big plate, listeners, unlike Jack, start getting suspicious. More so when he asks for a big spoon.

The boy however continues trying to persuade his ursine guest to join him in partaking of an eggy treat.

When Jack does finally discover the answer to the all-important, ‘what do bears eat?’ question, it looks as though it might be the end of the line for the lad. Could there perhaps be a way out of his perilous position?

Anticipation is key in this tale.

Rachel Suzanne’s portrayal of diminutive boy and enormous bear are quite splendid; and Julie Fulton’s conversational narrative style works a treat.

My audiences delighted in Jack’s naivety, spluttered with pleasure over the final utterance of the title line and its illustration,

and chortled at the finale.

Beware the Mighty Bitey

Beware the Mighty Bitey
Heather Pindar and Susan Batori
Maverick Arts Publishing

Nippy Pool lies deep in the jungle; it’s the home of The Mighty Bitey Piranhas. These creatures with their razor-sharp teeth lurk beneath the waters over which hangs a rope bridge, frayed and apt to sway, waiting for something tasty to come their way and singing their favourite song.

Along come in turn Mouse, Goat and Bear, each with his musical instrument; and all on their way to Cougar’s party. Each accepts the “Please play for us!” invitation of the Mighty Biteys causing the fragile bridge to sway and dip ever closer to the water until suddenly amid all the ding-dings, dong dungs …

and roompah, oom-papahs, leaving the rope dangling precariously by a single twine …

Are the party-going animals about to become the piranhas’ next meal or will party-throwing Cougar and his pals be the ones feasting?

A suspenseful tale from Heather Pindar to keep listeners on the edges of their seats, deliciously illustrated by Susan Batori with toothsome scenes of ferocious fish and musical mammals.

Perilous Play: Game of Stones / Rocket Shoes

Game of Stones
Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing

Young Pod of Stone Underpants fame is back and he’s in inventive mode once more.
Now he wants to make a ‘whizzy’ game to amuse his younger brother, Hinge.
His first creation is certainly that but there appears to be a design fault …

and the ‘Yow-Yow’ ends up being banned by their dad.
Back to the drawing board: more chiselling, sawing and hammering, and the result is ‘Crackit’.

That meets the same fate as Pod’s previous effort – a paternal ban.
His third attempt looks like a winner but the boys must find somewhere away from their parents to use it, and for this Pod calls on the assistance of their friends, both animal and human. What on earth could they be moving all those huge blocks of stone for?
A playful tale, some groan worthy puns, not least being the book’s title and suitably crazy scenes of Stone Age carry-ons make for another diverting drama from Pod’s creators.

Rocket Shoes
Sharon Skinner and Ward Jenkins

When is it right to break the rules? Essentially it’s a philosophical question that might well be explored in a classroom community of enquiry session.
It’s the one young José must work out when his neighbour, who has been instrumental in getting his and the other children’s amazing rocket shoes banned, is in great danger.
The boy is sitting outside pondering on the aeronautical acrobatics he and his friends have enjoyed …

when a snow storm suddenly engulfs Mrs Greg who is outside searching for her missing cat.
Should he, or should he not get out his forbidden rocket shoes and whizz to her aid?

To reveal what happens would spoil the story, so I’ll just say, all ends highly satisfactorily for everyone in town …
Told through Sharon Skinner’s whizzy rhyme and Ward Jenkins zippy, cartoonish digital illustrations, this will appeal especially to those who like to break the rules from time to time.

I’ve signed the charter  

Bonkers About Beetroot / Pony in the City

Bonkers About Beetroot
Cath Jones and Chris Jevons
Maverick Arts Publishing

Sunset Safari Park is in danger of being closed down due to a distinct lack of visitors. Zebra calls a meeting of its inmates in the hope they might have suggestions as to how to save their home. Despite Penguin’s discouraging “Nobody comes because we’re boring” comment, Zebra remains determined to do something to attract the crowds. Beetroot is his plan: the biggest in the world and the animals are to grow it. “BONKERS!” is pessimistic Penguin’s response to this idea and to pretty much every stage in the growth of the vegetable from manure heap planting ground …

to the large beet that soon attracts the crowds.
So successful is the vegetable that it just goes on growing and growing until there’s no longer room for visitors.

Penguin’s solution is a pretty drastic one but will it have the effect he hopes? Can the safari park be saved after all?

Really, there’s no other way to describe this story that to borrow Penguin’s much used word, ‘BONKERS’.
The contrasting characters: optimistic Zebra and pessimist, Penguin complement one another well, making for a lively and quirky story time read aloud that invites audience participation.
Chris Jevons’ vivid illustrations of zoo residents, the zoo’s human visitors and of course, the beetroot itself, provide plenty to giggle over.

Pony in the City
Wendy Wahman

Otis, a pony at the Pony Paddock gets on well with the children who visit his home; in fact he’s ‘saddled with questions’ about them. Do they gallop and kick? Do they ever walk on all fours? Do they graze on grass and daisies? The older ponies ignore his constant questioning so Otis sets out to find some answers for himself.
He visits the city park where hiding himself away, he observes and discovers their movements and sounds are not very different from his. Next stop is their homes; ‘such big barns’, he decides.
Otis discovers many more similarities …

but then suddenly comes the scary realisation that he’s far from home, alone in the big city and it’s way past time to sleep.

Next morning he hears a familiar clippity cloppity sound; could it be one of his fellow ponies coming to look for him?
No it isn’t; but his finders are equally surprised to see the little pony so far from his home and more than willing to take him back home where, inevitably, he has lots of questions to answer …
This gentle adventure with witty collage style illustrations of a children’s world interpreted through the limited experiences of a pony, offers food for thought about judgements and diversity.

Imagination Rules: The Magical Ice Palace & Daddy and I

The Magical Ice Palace
Suzanne Smith, Lindsay Taylor and Marnie Maurri
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

A flight on a gigantic magical snowflake,

a hairy mammoth prince stranded atop a mountain, a dramatic rescue involving an enormous bunch of balloons,

a beautiful palace …

a birthday party and a snow globe: yes Doodle Girl, is back with her magic pencil, of course, and her friends, for another amazing adventure. And it all begins with Doodle Girl’s discovery of a ‘curly CURVY SHAPE’ as she’s skipping through the sketchbook.
Even when the rescue has finally been effected there’s still the problem of a distinct lack of one absolutely vital ingredient for a topping birthday party –the cake. Can Doodle Girl wield her magic pencil one more time and make the Mammoth Prince’s celebration a truly royal occasion complete with cake and candles?
If you’ve not yet made the acquaintance of the wonderfully imaginative heroine, Doodle Girl, I urge you to do so now: she resides in a big red sketchbook and as soon as she so much as whispers the words, “Draw, draw, draw …” amazing adventures start to happen.
Deliciously quirky illustrations, whimsical characters and a sparkling wintry tale add up to another winning flight of fancy for Doodle Girl’s three creators; and there’s a bonus giant doodling poster inside the back cover.

Daddy and I
Lou Treleaven and Sophie Burrows
Maverick Arts Publishing

Saturday is ‘Daddy day’ for the little girl narrator and here she tells of a walk they take together; and what a wonderfully memorable Saturday that particular one turns out to be.
As they set out down the lane, not only is our narrator full of excitement, but her imagination is in full flow too as the pair become first, jungle explorers;

then grass snakes slithering through a field, followed by mountain climbers and cloud watchers.
Next comes a game of ‘Pooh sticks’, (they manage to pack so much into their day),

followed by a foray into the woods; but then there’s a storm and it’s time to make a run for it … all the way back to the dry.

This rhyming celebration of a special bond between father and daughter is beautifully told.
Sophie Burrows has picked up Lou Treleaven’s tuneful text embellishing the everyday sights of their country walk with scenes drawn from the child narrator’s imagination depicting a world where fact and fantasy meet.

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew / Pirates in Classroom 3

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew
Harry L. Herz and Benjamin Schipper

Shiver me timbers, I cannot imagine how many crews of piratical dinosaurs there be a’sailin’ the high seas, however here’s one more to add to their number. Meet Pat, Terry, Kyle and of course, their captain, Rex. A right troublesome journey it is they’ve embarked upon too.
First the ship’s rudder becomes fodder for a giant shark; then down comes a fog and having survived those mishaps thanks to some clever steering on Pat’s behalf …

and Terry’s navigation skills they find themselves on dry iand and faced with a volcano at the bottom of which, the treasure might just be buried.
And buried it is but having unearthed same, there follows the question of ownership of the booty. Cap’n Rex doesn’t want to share: his crew think otherwise and let him know in no uncertain terms …

Who is cleverer, Cap’n or crew: that’s the vital question?
With its pepperings of “Arrr“, “Aye” and “can’t ye?”, this is a fun read aloud with plenty of silliness, a bounty of comical illustrations and a final author’s note of piratical words just a few of which come up in the narrative.

Pirates in Classroom 3
Alison Donald and Ben Whitehouse
Maverick Arts Publishing

Still those pirate tales keep on coming; here’s one that starts off in a class of lively children.
When Ms Bitsy leaves her classroom unattended, the children are more than a little surprised by the sudden appearance of Captain Calamity who claims to be searching for treasure; treasure which according to his map is located ‘under the sea’ in their classroom.
The children are eager to help in the search …

but can they locate the booty before the dreaded Pirate Bloodloss gets his hands on it?
Perhaps the clue is in the alphabet frieze, there’s certainly a C there.
Before you can say, ‘Ms. Bitsy’, their teacher has returned and is ready to join them all in an underwater hunt.

A teacher who throws herself into a piratical adventure and is willing to stand up to a bullying pirate will surely win over early years listeners.

Clumpety Bump / Barnyard Boogie!

Clumpety Bump
Phil Alcock and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Wally Wobblebottom is a kind-hearted soul; he has a horse named Clumpety Bump, a very lazy animal indeed. So lazy that when Wally sets out to deliver goodies to his various friends and neighbours, the horse’s response to his master’s words of encouragement on each occasion is “I can’t be bothered!” which leaves Wally more than a little frustrated, especially as the items he intends to deliver all go to waste.

By Thursday Wally has had enough; he decides to use his tractor when he goes, bearing flowers, to visit his lady-friend. However it seems machines can be just as unreliable as horses …

and in the end it’s Clumpety that takes Wally, at full speed this time, all the way to Ann Kacheef’s house. There disaster strikes … but all ends happily for everyone.
With its playful phrases and refrains to join in with, this story, with its themes of thankfulness and friendship, is one to encourage audience participation and promote the message that language can be fun.

More playful language in:

Barnyard Boogie!
Tim McCanna and Allison Black
Abrams Appleseed
Be prepared for a noisy storytime if you share this one: it’s a riotous read aloud thanks to the musicians of the Barnyard Animal Band.
All the animals have their instruments poised: Horse has a tuba, Goat plays a sax, Cat fiddles, Pig is a pianist, Sheep blows a trumpet and Dog bangs the drums. But what can Cow do? …

The crowd’s assembled ready to hear the performance; but how will the show start and who will lead the band?

Crazy rhyming onomatopoeic instrumental sounds, and a repeat refrain that young children will love to join in with, are part and parcel of the brief text that scans beautifully. Put together with bright, zany illustrations, the whole thing makes for a fun session with young children actively involved both vocally and physically.

The Birthday Invitation / Wishker

The Birthday Invitation
Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
That the author of this book is a speech therapist is evident in the abundance of verbs in her enormously engaging story.
We meet Ellen on the eve of her birthday excitedly writing and posting off invitations to her party. On her way though, she drops one: it’s picked up by a wizard while out collecting herbs, and into a bottle he pops it.

Some while later though, it finds its way into the hands of a pirate captain out at sea where it is then seized by his parrot which flies off and drops it into the hands of a princess and thereafter, it passes to several other unsuspecting characters before ending up in the pocket of its originator.
The day of the party dawns and there’s considerable hustle and bustle as Emma makes the final preparations for her birthday party and then comes a loud knock on her door …
Has there been a mistake or could it be that the wizard had worked some rather extraordinary magic? Certainly not the former, and maybe a sprinkling of sorcery went into the making of that wonderful celebratory cake …

There certainly is a kind of magic fizzle to Laura Hughes’ captivating illustrations: every scene sparkles with vivacity and her attention to detail further adds to the enjoyment of her spreads.
Just right for pre-birthday sharing with those around the age of the birthday girl herein, or for a foundation stage story session at any time.

Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings
Maverick Arts Publishing
Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Heather Pindar’s deliciously crazy cautionary tale.
Meet Mirabel who it seems never gets what she asks for be it a sleepover with her friends or a pet monkey; “It’s not fair! Everyone always says NO” she complains as she sits outside in her garden. Her comments are heard by a cat that introduces itself as Wishker, claims to posses magical powers and offers her three wishing whiskers.
Mirabel uses her first wish on ice-cream for every meal and her second for having her friends to stay – forever. The third wish involves a phone call to the circus and results in the arrival of clowns, fire-eaters, acrobats and a whole host of animals. The result? Total pandemonium in one small house: things are well nigh impossible.

Another wish is uttered and ‘Whoosh’. Normality reigns once more. But that’s not quite the end of the tale – or the whiskery wishing: Mirabel has a brother and there just happens to be a whisker going begging …
Sarah Jennings bright, action-packed scenes are full of amusing details and endearing characters human and animal.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Snugglewump / Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day

The Snugglewump
Lou Treleaven and Kate Chappell
Maverick Arts Publishing
Molly has a host of toys and sitting side-by side awaiting her arrival one day, each claims to have pride of place in her affections. There’s Ted, an antique doll, Alien, Robot and Action Andy …

all strutting their stuff so to speak. It’s no wonder that Snugglewump lies forgotten on the floor feeling less than confident about his lot. But then, having seen and heard the others showing off, it ups and snugglewumps away through the catflap and off down the road.
Thanks to a free ride on a postman’s shoe, it ends up spending the night, damp and virtually shapeless contemplating the possibilities offered by having limbs and a countenance, or batteries, and generally rueing its lot.
Is it Snugglewump’s fate to be cast so it thinks, into the dump or could there perhaps be an alternative ending for this brightly coloured, albeit amorphous thing which, thanks to a couple of pigeons is, as the sun rises, hanging across the branch of a tree in the park?

Told through Lou Treleaven’s jaunty rhyming text with its fun descriptive phrases, and Kate Chappell’s beautifully expressive, quirky illustrations (she even manages to imbue that Snugglewump with a personality) this is great fun to share with young listeners either at home or in an early years setting.

Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day
Rochel Lieberman and Lloyd Jones
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Ten year old Pearla likes nothing better on Sundays than to help her father in his bakery. She’s something of an expert herself, cooking up perfect cupcakes and cookies that people come from far and wide to buy.
One Sunday however, having so she thinks whisked up the usual perfect mix for her cookies and cupcakes, and put them into the oven to bake, she realises that she’s left out a vital ingredient. Disaster for one used to a perfect baking outcome.

But then as she paces up and down, Pearla starts out on what is to be a huge learning curve: “I’m a person, People are not perfect. I did my best. I know I will be helped with the rest,” she tells herself.
Out come the far from perfect confections some time later and rather than throwing the whole lot in the bin, Pearla decides to sell them at half-price.
What happens thereafter is a big surprise for the girl and after the odd sales setback, every single item is sold. Thank goodness Pearla managed to stay calm and turn her mistake into something positive. Even more important she learned the crucial life-lesson: that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process; something all teachers worth their salt would agree with, and that all youngsters need to take on board early on in their education. That way lies success.
Full of important and empowering lessons. Written by a speech and language specialist, this is a book to share with all young learners, especially those who, for whatever reason, are averse to risk-taking. Lloyd Jones’ illustrations add gentle humour to Pearla’s plight.

I’ve signed the charter  

Fum / Beauty and the Very Bad Beast

Karl Newson and Lucy Fleming
Maverick Arts Publishing
Despite their name, the Crumbs are a very large family: there’s Pa, Ma, Grandpa Plum, Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum. Or rather there should be; Fum, the smallest Crumb was gone missing. The search is on: first stop, the houses of the three little pigs …

No sign of him there. “He could be hiding … / In the woods with Little Red Riding.” That’s the suggestion from one of the pigs. Off they go again with everyone joining the hunt, but Grandma and her crew cannot help. Or rather, the Big Bad Wolf gets a whiff of his socks and thinks it’s worth locating Golidlocks. Guess whose bridge they cross to get to the house of the bears. The three are eager to assist and take to the air . Further locations are visited, all to no avail, until suddenly a small voice is heard. Now who might that be up the tree – or rather beanstalk? (I just wanted to be in line with the story’s rhyme.)

Lo and behold, the little chap wasn’t lost after all – just small! And in true fairy tale style, ‘The woods filled up with songs and laughter, / and all lived happily ever after.
Satisfying stuff, delivered through Newson’s exuberant rhyming text, full of repeat refrains, KNOCK! KNOCK!’s and “No” s to join in with; and Lucy Flemming’s funny pictorial rendition of the search with its unusual perspectives and spilt page scenes.

Beauty and the Very Bad Beast
Mark Sperring and Barbara Bongini
I love a story that mucks around with fairy tales, or as here, a fairy tale.
Let’s meet Beauty’s sisters, Grace,a golf-loving lass, and May, who likes to tong her hair. Both ask their doting father to bring them appropriate gifts on his return from a shopping trip in town. Beauty – well we know what her request is; her Popsey however decides to steal it from someone’s garden …

and that’s when the trouble begins. The Beastly Beast appears, makes an accusation and demands his price. Inevitably, it’s Beauty who greets him on his return and thus she duly departs to reside with the Beast.
Beauty asks him to let her go, the creature agrees to consider it and he does – over a long period that stretches into seasons during which time he falls head over heels with his captive; he even proposes.

What happens thereafter includes further considerations, a return, a whole lot of forgetting, the death of a rose, a frantic dash and a kiss …

l’ll leave you to imagine the final event: assuredly it’s rather splendid and made all the more so by Barbara Bongini’s hilarious, action packed scene of same.

I’ve signed the charter  

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


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 …


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 …


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.


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.


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.


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.

Charter logo FINAL.indd

A Clutch of Activity Books


inside, outside, upside down
push, pull, empty, full

Yasmeen Ismail
Laurence King Publishing
As a big fan of Yasmeen Ismail’s work I was thrilled to see these new Draw and Discover activity books. Herein children can, having grabbed their pens and pencils, join Rabbit and Duck and have lots of fun responding to the instructions on every page.
Those who work with young children know that concepts such as ‘tall and short’ …


‘short/long’, ‘small/ big’ and ‘empty/full’ are learned gradually through experience: inside, outside, upside down will add to such experience. In addition opposites such as outside/ inside, top/ bottom, left/ right …


are also playfully presented.
Push, pull, empty, full adds scientific concepts – push/ pull …


and warm/ cool as well as ‘beginning/ middle/ end’ which invites readers to ‘draw the middle’ and colour the rainbow created by so doing.
Draw Colour Discover’ says the message on the back cover: I’d add, Enjoy.


Woodland Hedgehugs Activity Book
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Spring’s not far away; already catkins are appearing on the hazel trees so it’s a great time to get out into the countryside or park with Horace and Hattie hedgehog (not forgetting Sid the Snail – he pops up on every page) and take up their invitation to engage in some sensory play. They suggest you wear wellies and wet weather gear and take along ‘A pot or box and a spoon, paper, chalk, glue, sticky-tape and ( most important I think), your imagination.’
Suggested outdoor activities include observations of colours in nature, looking for animal tracks, a scavenger hunt, some woodland challenges …


an exploration of woodland textures, and taking rubbings of bark and leaves.
There’s a page of tree leaves to search for; and an invitation to listen out for natural sounds can be followed by drawing what was heard on the related page,
These are just some of the in-the-field suggestions but there are plenty of indoor ideas too. Why not try making a shaker from a Y-shaped stick, do some messy leaf printing, or creating some tasty ladybird treats starting with an apple.
I like the way the outdoors is brought to the indoors through activities such as these and the woodland map making. The pictorial map outlined in the book can be coloured, but I’d suggest children make their own, either in two or three dimensions, perhaps with the help of photos taken on a walk.


8 Ways to Draw a Fish
Luisa Martelo
Tara Books
The author of this thoroughly engaging and instructive activity book has enlisted the help of artists from various regions of India. There are eight different art styles in all including Rajasthani Meena work from artist Sunita, Gond art from Madhya Pradesh from Bhajju Shyam, and Subhash Vyam, Madhubani style from Bihari artist, Rambharos Jha, Bhil art from Subhash Amaliyar and Patua style from West Bengali artist, Swarna Chitrakar.
As with all Tara publications, the whole thing is of top quality: the paper itself is beautifully thick (card almost) and each spread is a combination of grey outlines – thick or thin – and colourful design/pattern.


The suggestion is that users trace the fish outlines and then be creative in how they add their own details and colours. The guidance is subtle rather than overly instructive and accompanying it are snippets of basic scientific information about the fish and their environments.
And of course, the book proves lots of fun, both for its intended child audience and for the many adults who enjoy such books as a means of relaxation. Make sure you read the author’s ‘What is Art?’ on the inside front cover flap too.
Buy to give and buy to keep. I intend to give my copy but first I’ll do some sneaky tracing so I don’t miss out on the creative opportunities.

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As Nice As Pie


Dolci and Ellena relishing the story …

As Nice as Pie
Gary Sheppard and Tim Budgen
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Mavis Manewaring decides to share her freshly baked loaf with a bird one day, little does she expect that within a week she’ll be catering for twenty, all enthusiastically stuffing themselves with her delicious pasties and pastries …


A couple of weeks later, her hungry throng has reached hundreds: birds of all shapes and sizes– great greedy gannets, a plump parakeet, chubby-cheeked crows, potbellied pigeons and the like have heard the news of the tasty fare Mavis has been dishing up to the avian throng. What’s more it’s not merely bread, but biscuits, buns and bacon baps she’s feeding  her winged visitors. Mavis’s shopping bill must have gone through the roof and now it seems she’s no time for anything else but satisfying the ever-increasing throng.


Enough is enough decides the long-suffering cook and having baked a giant flan case, she issues an ultimatum to the hungry hoards: either join her in a co-operative venture or become the filling for that “Birdie Surprise” flan.


For her guests, blind-folded at her request and already knee-deep in gravy, it’s a no brainer and before long there’s a new co-operative enterprise operating in the village …
Rhyming stories seem to be all the rage at the moment but unless they’re well written, the rhyme works against them. This one of Gary Sheppard’s, with its sprinklings of alliteration and jaunty rhythm works a treat. Add to that Tim Budgen’s chirpy, chucklesome illustrations and the outcome is an altogether tasty read aloud. And then there are those counting opportunities and potential for discussions on teamwork and sharing.


Stone Underpants / The Great Sock Secret


Stone Underpants
Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Stone underpants? Have you ever heard of anything more preposterous? Back in the Stone Age though, when young Pod lived there wasn’t an awful lot around to make bottom warmers from when your rear end felt decidedly chilly, so a pair of stone underpants is what he makes himself. Needless to say however, they’re not the best things for running around in, and as for swimming, well …


Pod decides to try another material, but wood proves equally unsuitable …


as do several others he tries. Is he destined to have a chilly rump for ever or is there something else he could try…


The very mention of underpants and bottoms frequently reduces young listeners to fits of giggles and I suspect this one will do just that. The whole scenario is totally crazy: beetles demolishing his wooden underpants overnight for instance; and what was wrong with using an animal skin, there are certainly wild beasts evident in some of the scenes; but this madcap romp requires total suspension of disbelief so, why worry. It’s assuredly something youngsters will raise anyhow and they’ll also more than likely ask about the material used for that football too, and perhaps question why Pod didn’t just try making leafy underpants But all this could lead very nicely into some investigative work on materials if you happen to work with young children. Alternatively you might just enjoy the ridiculous story as told by the aptly named Rebecca Lisle, and have a good giggle over the equally crazy pictorial rendition of same from Richard Wilson.


The Great Sock Secret
Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones
EK Books
My alternative uses for socks have been restricted to a resource for making puppets in the classroom; and when teaching yoga, as props for those needing a little bit of help in certain stretches.
In Sarah’s house though, the socks are put to all manner of imaginative uses by the fairies who share her home. When Sarah’s mum initiates a hunt for the socks that have mysteriously gone missing from the laundry basket,


the little girl has to stay one jump ahead as they search all over the house. She knows who the culprits are; but can she manage to stop her mum from discovering those borrowers?
This foray into the fanciful is most likely to appeal to imaginative listeners around the age of the young protagonist.

Big Bob, Little Bob / Mine Mine Mine Said The Porcupine


Big Bob, Little Bob
James Howe and Laura Ellen Andersen
Walker Books
The possibility of friendship seems unlikely when Big Bob moves in next door to Little Bob: the boys are just so different and it’s not just their relative size; their interests are totally different too. Little Bob likes quiet activities such as block building and playing with dolls; Big Bob’s play is altogether more boisterous. “Boys do not play with dolls,” he asserts. Despite this Big Bob does make efforts to involve his neighbour in his play …


but nothing can bring the two round to the same way of thinking or doing.


However when a girl moves into their neighbourhood, the first person to jump to Little Bob’s defence when she questions his choice of play activities is none other than Big Bob. “Hey! You stop picking on my friend!” he tells her. “Boys can do whatever they want!” Gender stereotyping is seemingly not so fine now.
But then it turns out that Blossom prefers trucks to dolls: can the three find a way to accommodate everyone’s choices …
Any story that challenges gender stereotyping is worth a look in my book. This one is delivered with a gentle humour that is accentuated by Andersen’s comical scenes of the children at play. Definitely a book to share with those around the same age as the characters herein; it will give them plenty to think about and discuss.
Also looking at building friendship is:


Mine Mine Mine! Said the Porcupine
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
Alfie returns and this time he has a porcupine as his visitor; a porcupine whose sharing skills leave a lot to be desired. Alfie does his best to engage the porcupine in some play, but everything he offers is immediately seized by his visitor. “Mine!” he claims at each attempt.


Eventually, Alfie decides enough is enough and leaving the possessive creature to his own devices, he goes to play on his own. Now the porcupine has what he wants – or has he? Can he perhaps find a situation where that word he loves so much, is appropriate?


A gentle lesson in sharing delivered in a rhythmic text easy enough to read so that those around Alfie’s age can try it for themselves. Emma Levey portrays the porcupine as hirsute making him appear cuddly rather than a prickly character and he certainly knows how to talk with his eyes.

The Snowflake Mistake / The Bot that Scott Built


The Snowflake Mistake
Lou Treleaven and Maddie Frost
Maverick Arts Publishing
The latest scientific research shows that what we’re told as children – that every snowflake is different – isn’t altogether true, although there are a great many structural variations. Now here’s a modern pourquoi tale explaining the popular idea that every one is different.
Princess Ellie lives with her mum, the Snow Queen, in a floating ice palace high above the clouds. In that palace is an amazing machine that collects clouds, squishing, crunching and stamping them to make into identical snowflakes.


But when Ellie’s mum has some business to attend to elsewhere, the young miss, (who would much prefer to be out playing) is left in charge of the machine. She decides to speed up the snow production …


and that’s when things, or rather the machine goes terribly wrong, and with a BOING! BANG! POP! it grinds to a halt.
With the only alternative being no snow for the children to enjoy, Ellie knows she must find another way of making snowflakes. Out comes her scissors and with the help of the birds, she makes snowflakes of all shapes and sizes, not perfect exactly, but every one beautiful, every one different. Hooray!
Full of wintry delight this rhyming story is another invention from the creator of the Oojamaflip – another quirky machine. Maddie Frost’s digitally rendered collage-style illustrations, especially those of the snowflake machine, are great fun and the final page provides information on how to make a snowflake.


The Bot That Scott Built
Kim Norman and Agnese Baruzzi
It’s Science Day for Scott and his classmates and it’s Scott’s turn to demonstrate his robot. Things don’t go quite to plan though and that moment of glory rapidly descends into chaos as angry ants rampage, freaky frogs frolic and feast on flies, there’s a big-bellied boa on the loose and a whole lot more besides.


The cumulative rhyme dashes along at a frenetic havoc-making pace; and with lashings of alliteration and illustrations packed with hilarious details as the whole session turns from calm to mayhem, young listeners have plenty to enjoy as the catastrophes cascade into being until finally, a sense of order is restored. PHEW! Now who could have pressed that button in the first place, one wonders.

Mr Mustachio / George Pearce and His Huge Massive Ears


Mr Mustachio
Yasmin Finch and Abigail Tompkins
Maverick Arts Publishing
I’ve never seen a moustache quite like that of the star of the show in this funny story. He’s very, very tall and thin, sports a maxi camel hair coat and pointy black boots; and on the day we meet him, is off for a picnic in the park …


This he enjoys but then his eyes light on one of those roundabout things and that’s when the trouble starts- well it would, wouldn’t it? Before long the hirsute Mr M. is in a bit of a fix …


Various children attempt to release him by pulling and soaping and a granny trio try tooling a rescue but to no avail: even the gang of builders can’t do the trick …


so it looks at though it’s down to one of the teachers to snip him out (not sure what they’re doing walking in the park wielding scissors but no matter). Mr M is finally released but there’s something about his appearance that’s not quite as it used to be … Can our resourceful Mr Mustachio find a replacement for his missing facial filaments: perhaps he could choose from those wonderful endpaper ideas.
A crazy tale for sure, but it’s one that will elicit giggles from young audiences: Abigail Tompkins’ subtle-toned scenes of the moustachioed Mr M are a hoot.


George Pearce and His Huge Massive Ears
Felix Massie
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
George Pearce is an ordinary sort of boy except for one thing, or rather two – his ears. They are enormous and protrude – wing-like – from either side of his otherwise ordinary head. George doesn’t use them for flight though, for him, they’re secret sound catchers. The only trouble being that pretty soon, George’s head is stuffed full of words – some good, others decidedly not …


So much so that his head is so muddled, he just doesn’t know how to sort right from wrong, or what to think at all. Opinions seem to be crowding in on George everywhere he goes and it’s impossible to please everyone.


There’s only one thing to do and George does it. He puts a finger in each ear, pushing them in hard to block out everyone else’s ideas and words.
Suddenly there comes a very tiny voice from deep within George’s own skull; this voice doesn’t tell him anything, rather it provides a thinking space for George’s own thoughts to form and at last, there’s no need for pretence. The real boy can finally emerge and yes, his ears still stick right out, but now there’s only one person who can make up George’s mind and that is George himself …


Sad, funny and insightful, this is a cautionary tale to share with those who are easily swayed by what others say and think, especially, though I suspect it will bring a smile to the faces of most youngsters particularly if they enjoy a bit of quirkiness.


Animal Magic, Cuddly Cow, Portly Pig, Baby Elephant & Baby Reindeer


Animal Magic
Phil Allcock and Gina Maldonado
Maverick Arts Publishing
Delightfully playful is Phil Allcock’s nonsense rhyme featuring what starts out as a hedgehog – a funny one – and morphs into eight other animals – small and smaller. There’s a hopping one, a wiggler…


a strutting clucker, a quacking swimmer, a jogger, a hopper (furry this time) and slimy slitherer and finally …


Toddlers will have enormous fun guessing what each new disguise will be before the page is turned to reveal it in one of Gina Maldonado’s enchanting dayglow spreads.


Cuddly Cow/ Portly Pig
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Another two lovable animals star in the latest ‘Sound Button’ farmyard stories from the inimitable Axel Scheffler. The first features a very dozy Cuddly Cow intent on finding a quiet peaceful spot for some shut-eye. Her own meadow’s no good because the other cows make too much of a din: surely there’s somewhere else though, after all it is past sundown.
The chicken shed’s full of clucking hens, the horse is inhospitable, there’s a right old row in the pig pen – thank you ducks – but what about the sheep field? Maybe a spot of counting might help …


Portly Pig’s troubled on account of his clean, pinkness. He’s against green grass, yucky flowers and trees as he describes them, and sets off in search of a mucky place. Soon he discovers just the thing: a cool, muddy pool; and a delightful day of splashing and sploshing follows. Until that is, the sky changes colour …


Pig, like most young children is a real mud lover but unlike them, he can keep on getting muddy, letting the rain wash him off and immediately getting mucky all over again – in an instant. Youngsters will delight in Portly’s mucky, messy coat and might well be tempted to emulate his actions – adults beware!


Baby Elephant / Baby Reindeer
illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books
In the first of two new offerings in the ‘Finger Puppet’ series we discover how Baby Elephant greets her Mama, finds food, keeps cool and communicates with fellow baby elephants.
Baby Reindeer lives in a contrastingly cold tundra climate and to find food, has to use his hooves to dig in the snow and uncover tasty lichen. Like Baby Elephant, he too swims in a river – albeit a very icy feeling one and snuggles against Mama Reindeer for warmth at the end of the day.
Both board books provide a lovely way for human adult and baby to interact with a book.

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Not Enough for Queen Fluff / Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast

Not Enough For Queen Fluff
Rachel Lyon and Catalina Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing
Queen Fluff has everything a person (or a fancy bunny) could want: a large, lavishly furnished burrow full of queenly comforts, quite the opposite of all her subjects. They live in near poverty out in the Kingdom beyond the palace boundaries. Riches, as most of us know, don’t equate to happiness though, and thus it is with Queen Fluff who spends a bored, lonely existence.
So her royal bunnyness sends out a communication to all the other bunnies …


It’s hardly the way to win friends methinks, but how do the recipients respond?
They certainly start making some plans for their royal visitor. She meanwhile, sets off with bulging bags, eagerly anticipating a welcome befitting her regal status. What she gets however, is something of a surprise, or rather a shock, as she visits burrow after burrow in search of delight.


And what of that ten-course feast she’s set her sights on? Well, those rabbits surely know how to serve up a surprise menu; but is it one that will cause their monarch to eat her words? It might just be …


With a rhyming text from Rachel Lyon that simply rolls off the tongue, mixed with super-cute, funny illustrations from Catalina Echeverri …


this book has gone down very well with my audiences. I had great fun with one group suggesting their own disgusting courses to serve up to Queen Fluff.


Ellena snuggled up for the story

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast
Christine Pym
Nosy Crow
Little Mouse has a big appetite or so it seems; but maybe not: let’s wait and see.
We first meet our intrepid little hero one chilly evening when he’s decidedly peckish and having nothing ready for a breakfast nibble the following morning.
Fortunately though, Little Mouse knows just where to go and off he sets, scampering along the footpath, scaling the drainpipe and hopping in through an open window where on the table he spies this …


followed quickly by a rosy apple and then a whole lot of ‘big brown biscuits’ …


But that’s not all. Pretty soon, despite the odd doubt about the deliciousness of one or two items, he has all this precariously balanced …


Guess what though: he then spots the ABSOLUTE perfect item for a tasty breakfast – one ‘shiny, stripy sunflower seed’ and of course he just HAS to have it … Seems someone else is after that perfect breakfast too and we know what that is …


I wonder who gets their perfect breakfast – that would be tale telling, wouldn’t it. Suffice it to say, it’s pretty tasty.
Christine Pym’s timing is spot on, and her tale deliciously illustrated with a mix of double spreads, single pages, panels and frames. This really went down a treat with my early years audience who delighted at the ending and were eager for an immediate re-reading.

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Pants and Pirates

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Hooray for Knickers
Jill Lewis and Deborah Allwright
The very mention of knickers in a picture book is likely to get children giggling and so it is with this one, although other than the title, it was some way into the story before the k word came up at all. The whole thing is based on a kind of cumulative Chinese whispers mix up that occurs when the Royal Butler incorrectly passes on King Grouchy’s order for ‘floats, deck chairs and silky slippers.’ (Items needed to impress his soon-to-arrive guest, Prince Jolly whom he’s invited for a swim at the palace.) What he tells the Royal Footman instead is: “They need boats, black bears and silly flippers.”  The message eventually reaches the ears of the Royal Maid who interprets it thus: “He needs skipping ropes? A funfair? And everyone needs frilly knickers? Oh well, if that’s what the king’s best friend in the whole wide world wants …
It’s more than the royal servants’ lives are worth to ignore orders of King Grouchy, even if they are trying to keep out of his way, so what he says goes. Errm …
Both King and Prince are in for a surprise when they look down from the balcony at the sight that awaits …

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Fortunately both host and guest see the funny side, a friendship is forged and then it’s time to party.

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Comical scenes abound in this crazy caper.

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The Best Pirate
Sue Mongredien and Dan Taylor
Scholastic Children’s Books
Meet the pirate crew: there’s Pirate Dave – big and brave, clever Pirate Nell, Pirate Giles – ace swimmer and the diminutive Pirate Paul. Having set sail Dave, Nell and Giles are immediately busy

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but Paul (not considered a proper pirate by fellow crew members on account of his lack of stature) is deemed too tiny for a task. The same applies once they reach dry land and set off in search of treasure; Paul is left on the ship while the others explore. Will he ever get an opportunity to prove himself a worthy member of the pirate band? Maybe this is his golden opportunity: his shipmates certainly look like they need some help – and fast …

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Told in appropriately rollicking rhyme and humorously illustrated in bold tropical colours, this will appeal in particular to young landlubbers who enjoy tales of the action-packed kind. And there’s a fold-out cover flap with cut-out pirate hat and treasure.

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Bossy Jonathan Fossy
Julie Fulton and Elina Ellis
Maverick Arts Publishing
Meet Jonathan Fossy, a real bossy boots if ever there was one: he’d issue orders to his mum, his neighbours, the whole town in fact. Eventually PC Moran decides something has to be done and at dead of night a plan is hatched. Next morning as he heads off to play, Jonathan sees this …

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On reaching the beach he’s confronted by a gang of dastardly looking pirates one of whom grabs young Jonathan and having hustled him on board as a crew member, produces a rather long list of tasks the lad’s required to complete.

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Seems there’s nothing for it but to get stuck in. There’s washing, scrubbing, sail repairs, deck swabbing, polishing and much more and all the while the rest of the crew jeer at and scorn the lad, issuing threats if he appears to be slacking.
Eventually a somewhat exhausted Jonathan sees the error of his ways: “Being bossy’s not nice, I can see. /I’ve been a real pain, I won’t do it again.” he cries. And then it’s time for the rest of the crew to unmask and set sail back to Hamilton Shady with one altogether reformed character.
Jonathan Fossy is the latest addition to the series of Hamilton Shady inhabitants. The exploits of some of the other residents of the town of ‘over-the-top’ characters have been reissued with new titles and covers, so if you’ve not read their cautionary tales, there are giggles aplenty to be found therein too.

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Baxter’s Book/Strictly No Crocs

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Baxter’s Book
Hrefna Bragadottir
Nosy Crow
Meet bibliophile Baxter. So strong is his love for books – especially scary wolf-infested ones and those inhabited by brave lions, cuddly bears or cute rabbits – that he yearns to be in a book himself. Then one day he spies a large notice outside a house and seemingly there’s no time to lose …

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Lots of other characters have the same idea and they’ve all played parts in books before but Baxter seems undeterred. After all, he can sing, dance, do acrobatics and act – what more could they want?

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Well, seemingly not an unusual creature like Baxter after all. His audition is a let down and poor Baxter gets the brush off.
Time for a spot of coaching from some of those other characters … but nothing feels quite right. Baxter has a pressing question …

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After all he’ll never be scary like Wolf, brave like Lion, cuddly like Bear or even, cute like Rabbit. Maybe it’s time to bow out gracefully and head off home … or is it?
An exciting picture book debut from Hrefna Bragadottir; I love her offbeat style and look forward to seeing what’s next.

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Strictly No Crocs
Heather Pindar and Susan Batori
Maverick Arts Publishing
It’s party time for Zebra and the invitation is posted but there’s one proviso.

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Crunchie, Chomper and Snapper are determined to gain entry however. You might guess what their favourite food is going to be; and Snapper has a plan at the ready.
The plan proves pretty successful initially and none of the others suspects that spotty-clad high bouncer, nor the winner of the pass the parcel teddy

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or that cake scoffer.

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In fact the threesome even go so far as to lead the vocals for the conga and that fireworks finale is really dazzling.
All too soon however, the crocs are wending their way back home, extolling the virtues of “an amazing party!” Hold on guys – wasn’t there something you forgot: it certainly wasn’t that scrummy-looking cake.
A tasty treat for young listeners although definitely not for crocs. Susan Batori’s zany illustrations are real laugh inducers and the story’s likely to keep your audience on the edge of their seats as they wait to see whether those snappers will be unmasked.

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Two Wacky Tales

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Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip
Lou Treleaven and Julia Patton
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Professor McQuark invents a wonderful new gadget, so weird and wacky is it, that she names it Oojamaflip. Then off she dashes to her workshop – aka the shed – and sets to work bringing that design in her head to finished product.

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What is the next thing to do once the Oojamflip is finished? Take it to be displayed at the Science Fair of course, and so with headlights polished, the next stop is the town hall. There is just one snag however and it concerns the relative size of the building’s doors and that of the Oojamaflip;

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so the prof. is forced to leave her machine outside.
Inside there are all manner of wacky inventions: a square balloon maker, a zip up door, an infinitely re-sizeable alien suit and a self-playing flute to name a few and they’re all vying for the judges’ attention to win that first prize. And here comes an announcement …

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Or maybe not – all the visitors are suddenly dashing outside leaving the judges startled and puzzled and there’s only one thing they can do; head outside too and discover what all the fuss is about …

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Seems they’re all pretty impressed with this extra mural exhibit but there’s one thing still puzzling them: “what does this Ooja-thing actually do?” The clue is in the title – I’ll say no more.
Great to see a female in the role of scientist cum inventor: the aptly named Professor McQuark should be an inspiration to all young inventors. Debut author Lou Treleaven’s sparky rhyming story is wackily illustrated by Julia Patton, whose scenes are full of zany details to pore over, and possibly provide some ideas to child inventors.

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Giant Jelly Jaws and the Pirates
Helen Baugh and Ben Mantle
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unlike his fellow crew members, new cabin boy Jake is not brave or strong; indeed he has no head for heights, cries at the slightest hint of a scratch and at night, his hammock-mate is a teddy bear. It looks as though Captain Fish-Breath Fred has made an almighty mistake in engaging young Jake. But can the lad manage to prove his worth in the face of a rival pirate crew whose members are intent on getting their hands on the treasure map whereon X marks the spot. Seemingly not, for here’s a rather stinky situation where we see his fellow shipmates about to walk the plank…

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and the cabin boy himself cowering behind some kegs of pop.
Hold on me hearties! What is Jake up to now? Surely it’s no time to be guzzling pop, or is it? …

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If you want to know how this ripping rhyming yarn concludes, you’ll have to get your own copy of the riotous romp and read the rest yourself. It’s certainly true to say ship’s figurehead Giant Jelly Jaws has found his match when it comes to monstrous eruptions; and awash with detail, Ben Mantle’s riotous scenes are suitably salty and swashbuckling.

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Let’s Play

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Ready, Steady, DIG!
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Ed Eaves
Hodder Children’s Books
As one little boy plays with his collection of vehicles, his playmat becomes the scene for Construction Crew to rumble into action. There’s Connor Crane with wrecking ball to bash and smash, big tough Dumper Dave to haul and heave, Mixer Millie is at the ready,

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followed by Ravi Roller to squash the tarmac and Doug the Digger with that enormous scoop – OOPS!

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He’s got stuck, so now it’s a case of teamwork to heave him out and complete the task …

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before that well-earned rest.

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Ed Eaves transforms the various vehicles into friendly-looking monsters, which, in combination with Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ lively rhyming text, make for a rumbustious read to share with the very young.
Teachers in early years settings may well want to take the opportunity this book offers to add some movement to the story session with the children themselves becoming the various members of the Construction Crew as the story unfolds – after an initial seated reading, that is.
Certainly this is one to add to an early years collection.

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Hedgehugs Hopping Hot
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing
The delightful duo, best friends Horace and Hattie return with their third story and it’s a very sunny day on which we find them attempting to play a favourite hopping game. The trouble is they’re feeling far too hot and the only shady spot doesn’t furnish sufficient hopping space. Their cooling strategies don’t meet with much success either

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and it’s well nigh impossible to emulate frogs when you make so much splash. Hiding under rocks like woodlice will certainly not work, if you want to hop that is …

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and nor will a squelchy mud covering. What about emulating that bird up there on a branch, think the friends but although it’s definitely a cooler place, it’s not suitable for jumping and …

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Hold on though, perhaps down here might be just what those spiky friends need – whatever the weather …

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Gentle humour delivered hedgehog fashion is fun no matter what the temperature: Horace and Hattie are such a joyful twosome; even in the face of all those misadventures they just bounce right back up, and that’s exactly what’s needed for a hopping game too! Lucy Tapper’s beautifully patterned illustrations capture the mood perfectly.

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Aliens Love Dinopants & Aerodynamics of Biscuits

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Aliens Love Dinopants
Clare Freedman and Ben Court
Simon and Schuster
Aliens, underpants and dinosaurs all in one story – what more can a pants loving reader ask for? Herein the spacecraft, piloted by the pantsophile aliens, is zapped by lightning as it whizzes through the skies forcing it to crash-land in the jungle.
But BLEEP BLEEPS are heard loud and clear from the pants-tracker and immediately the aliens are hot on the swampy trail. A trail that finally leads them to …

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shortly followed by …

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And it seems those dinosaurs are ready to fight to the death over their precious stash. But perhaps that isn’t going to be necessary: after all both are really on the same side – that of PANTS. So maybe a solution – a pantstastic one – can be found that works to the satisfaction of all concerned …

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And if so, all of us humans had better keep extra special watch over our washing lines when it’s chuddies drying time.
Can it really be the seventh of this ever-popular Underpants series? This one was eagerly seized upon by the five and six year olds I took it to, and several readings were demanded.

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Maria was certainly impressed by the story and left me this.

More power to the seemingly indomitable pants force and the creators thereof.

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Aerodynamics of Biscuits
Clare Helen Walsh and Sophia Touliatou
Maverick Arts Publishing
When hunger pangs strike, Oliver (normally a good, kind sort of a boy) creeps downstairs to raid the biscuit barrel only to find it completely empty. But what are those shadowy things scuttling across the floor, ‘Hauling and heaving, towing and tugging.’ out through the door and into the garden?

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The marauding mice however, are not consuming their spoils, oh no, they’re in the process of constructing or attempting to, aerodynamic biscuit rockets in which to fly to the moon and there partake of some – well you know what the moon is said to be made of.

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However their design skills leave a lot to be desired and it’s only when Oliver offers to help with the rocket building that things start to look more promising, and finally it’s blast off time.
Once at their cheesy destination, the mice can hardly wait to tuck in to the feast that awaits them when they discover that their leader, Captain Sneaky McSqueaky has gone missing: seems his appetite is for something other than cheese …
Are the mice to be marooned on the moon without a craft or can they find another way to return to earth? Perhaps, with Oliver’s help …

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This unlikely story is great fun. The nature of the telling is such that it draws listeners in from the start, keeping them involved and interested throughout and offering possibilities for active joining in with the rocket building and cheese gathering as the story unfolds.
Equally, Sophia Touliatou’s quirky illustrations are packed with amusing details, creating a visual feast of small rodents engaging in all manner of tasks, tiny tools, and tasty treats – sweet and savoury, not to mention a whole host of speech bubbles, noises, labels and more for the eyes to digest.

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Of Men and Mice (and the odd elephant)

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Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too)
Keith Negley
Flying Eye Books
The dozen tough guys boldly depicted in bold blocks of colour in this book represent a wide range of roles from wrestler to racing driver and each one is shown in a moment of strong emotion be it sadness, frustration, loneliness, disappointment or fear. …
‘… tough guys have feeling too.’ says the text and Negley’s powerful illustrations speak volumes and certainly show the guys in all their vulnerability. There’s a huge tattooed biker weeping over a tiny squirrel lying dead in the road …

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a pirate digging on a beach already covered with holes as he tries in vain to locate the treasure marked on his map,

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an astronaut floating around in space clutching a photo of his wife and child.

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In fact an adult and child together are the raison ‘d’être for the whole thing as we see them on the final spread – a father and son – snuggled together sharing a book and surrounded by scattered action figures and other relevant items pertaining to the already shown tough guys.

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And the endpapers are about the same pair: the front ones showing just the boy in all the roles and those at the back including Dad participating in the role-playing.
A wonderful and important demonstration that it’s fine, indeed cool, to show your feelings no matter who you happen to be: this book is a great starting point for discussion both in educational settings and families.

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As Quiet as a Mouse
Karen Owen and Evgenia Golubeva
Maverick Arts Publishing
Edgar has fond feelings for his new baby sister but he does find it extremely challenging not to keep waking her up – no matter how much he tries.

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You need to be as quiet as a mouse!” his Mum tells him so off goes Edgar to consult his friend Ruby. She takes him along to Mouse School and hands him over to Head Mouse, Mr Cheddar who insists he should pass the “Quiet Mouse Test” and lessons commence forthwith.

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Eventually Edgar manages to pass the test, becoming the first ever elephant to do so and then it’s time for a celebratory party …

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Well, it wasn’t Edgar this time! …
An extended joke of a story, winningly illustrated, that will resonate with youngsters in a similar, new sibling situation to Edgar.

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Don’t miss the Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October


Dads and A Digger-Driving Pirate

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Daddy I Can’t Sleep
Alan Durant and Judi Abbot
Picture Corgi pbk
It’s bedtime for Little Panda but he just cannot get to sleep: He can hear all kinds of scary noises. What could be roaring and howling outside their cave in the forest?
Fortunately, Daddy Panda knows exactly how to quell those fears. Taking Little Panda on his back off he goes into the forest and there they hear not scary sounds, but the gentle music of the bamboos,

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see the palm fronds waving bird-like in the wind and smell the sweet aroma of the fresh juicy shoots. Then having collected stem, leaves

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and shoots they head home and after partaking of a tasty treat, Little Panda snuggles down in bed. But before he sleeps there’s a lovely surprise – or rather, two lovely surprises – waiting for him, courtesy of Daddy Panda.

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A warm, reassuring tale with a pair of delightful characters; what a super, empathetic father figure Daddy Panda is. Judi Abbot’s densely coloured illustrations capture the atmosphere of the moonlit forest beautifully and those panda expressions speak volumes. Snuggle up close and share at bedtime or any time.


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I Want My Daddy
Tracey Corderoy and Alison Edgson
Little Tiger Press
There are times when only a dad will do and Arthur is having one of those days. The first time it’s when his castle collapses, then when his knightly activities cause him to come a cropper

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and after that his foray into fishing proves rather too much for the youngster. But happily for Arthur his Daddy is on hand to rescue the situation every time disaster strikes. After such an eventful day the young knight decides from the safety of his super new castle that it is time to inaugurate a very special king to rule over the kingdom and he sets to work creating …


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Share with Dads (and others) especially after one of those days when everything’s been just a bit too much. We can all applaud the fatherly care and consideration shown to young Arthur in this warm-hearted story for the very young.

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Pirates Don’t Drive Diggers
Alex English and Duncan Beady
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Brad comes from pirating stock; his Dad is determined young Pirate Brad should go off and join a crew. Brad however, has other plans: rather than fighting and plundering, he longs for a life driving diggers on a building site. Dad wishes win the day and so Bradley packs his bag and boards ship as crew member of the Salty Dog.

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Right from the start though, Brad fails to live up to Captain Blood’s expectations: his compass reading is topsy turvy, sword fights turn him to a quivering, cowering jelly and he takes a terrible tumble landing right in Blood’s bunk.
Begging for a final chance, Brad is presented with a large map and ordered to return with the treasure or walk the plank, so off he rows, fearing for his life. As luck would have it however, he eventually lands up on shore and having found the X begins to dig but …

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Surely our Brad isn’t about to meet his doom? As he keeps saying, “A pirate’s life is not for me,/ I want to drive a digger, see.” Hold on though lad … what did you just say? Off he dashes to the building site.

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But can he persuade those astonished builders to help him out? What do you think? …

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Woolly Wonders and Katie’s Wondrous Starry Night

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A Box of Socks
Amanda Brandon and Catalina Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Granny Mutton is knitting again – not a scarf this time but socks – a whole box of them. Little Lionel cannot wait to open the box of delights that is Granny’s container for the woollen gifts she Clickety-click’ creates with her trusty needles. Instead he plays the “What’s in the box … “ guessing game; (now that sounds familiar to me in my foundation stage teacher role) and learns that its contents will keep the feet of his friends horse, duck, dog and mouse cosy and warm.
After a spell spent pairing and labelling said socks, off goes an excited Lionel to deliver them to his pals.

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But disaster strikes in the form of sheepdog, Rocky who zooms past sending the box and its contents whirling skywards – whoopsie! You will guess what happens when Lionel finally retrieves all the socks and labels – labels that have been separated from their sock pairs …
Then it’s a case of Operation Swap Sock until order is finally restored and those stylish socks (and one more pair) duly celebrated.


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Part of the enjoyment of this amusing tale is in the anticipation of the sock mix-up and the story is a fantastic starting point for an early years game of sock sorting/matching. (You will need a few pairs of funky socks to play and there are several possibilities for activities, some open-ended, others less so.)
First though, share this super-socky story with your class or group and let them relish the antics portrayed in Calalina Echeverri’s wild and woolly artwork.

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Katie and the Starry Night
James Mayhew
Orchard Books pbk
Katie and her Grandma enjoy visiting art galleries together and on this particular day, the purpose of their visit is to look at some of the works of Vincent Van Gogh. Katie’s favourite is The Starry Night and as Grandma dozes in front of the painting, Katie goes right inside it and catches one of the dazzling stars. Other stars tumble out and follow her as she leaves the picture and moves on visiting

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Vincent’s Chair, Noon, The Olive Grove and Fishing Boats on the Beach each of which becomes part of her magical journey. But she must catch and replace all the stars before the gallery guard discovers their absence. Katie is joined on her journey by the subjects of the other paintings,

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but rest assured, everything and everyone is returned to the rightful place before Grandma stirs from her own dream.
It’s over twenty-five years since James Mayhew first introduced Katie as a means of sharing his enthusiasm for art with children. He has continued to delight countless under eights (and adults) with further Katie books and this one will be no exception. It’s a wonderful way to introduce the work of Van Gogh to a young audience (along with seeing one of the artist’s paintings for real that is) and will surely inspire many of them to try creating their own twirly, starry, skies. There’s even a final page message from Katie to help set those paint tools or fingers a-swirling.
Not to be missed: a classic.

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Bad Behaviour and Good

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Rude Cakes
Rowboat Watkins
Chronicle Books
If you’re looking for a quirky take on manners bad and good, then this entirely crazy confection is certainly one you should bite into. The tale shows what happens when the two-tiered character of the title – a far from sweet, indeed thoroughly ill-mannered, badly behaved object – that bullies and totally disrespects his four-tiered parents is whisked away

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to a place inhabited by Giant Cyclopses and one of their number starts sporting “Rudey” as my audience named him as a ‘jaunty little hat.’

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From upon a Cyclops’ head, the cake discovers a completely new way of being: one where sharing, politeness and respect for one’s elders is the thing and is then returned, a reformed character, to his bedroom safe and altogether sweeter.
Watkins has used watercolours in pastel shades, and delicate lines, to portray his wonderfully silly cakey characters and somehow manages to create sufficient solidity and gravitas in the Cyclopses to give them a powerful presence, a presence that began in the form of a toy stolen from a chocolate cupcake and a poster above the chief protagonist’s bed. (Observant readers will have noticed these.)

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And the moral of the tale? Well, that’s pretty clear but the deliciously playful manner of telling means that there’s no preaching. Rather the whole thing is a cleverly concocted metaphor showing how greater forces for good can prevail.
Would that it were so in our world of conflicts and catastrophes.
Powerful stuff: I wonder what Watkins will cook up next.

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A Gold Star for George
Alice Hemming and Kimberley Scott
Maverick Arts Publishing
I’m not a fan of the rewards and punishments system that is so prevalent in schools but I have to applaud, and wholeheartedly endorse George Giraffe’s endeavours in this story, set in The Heavenly Hippos Wildlife Park.
When the notice announcing Heavenly Hippos Gold Star Awards is posted George ponders the possibilities of getting a shiny gold star for that special place on his fence.

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He’s always on hand to assist his pals in their endeavours but could he be a winner? All the other animals have talents to display but George cannot win that category; what about the most stylish animal perhaps? No – that’s goes to the only unadorned of the animals.
It’s a somewhat downhearted George that celebrates his pals’ prizes but goes to sleep without one of his own. What then is that sound he hears on waking … and that bright twinkle? …

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Kindness and consideration win through in this story, which I envisage being shared as a prelude to circle time sessions in early years settings especially. Amusingly expressive illustrations grace every spread and celebrate an endearing character.

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Be the Change/Watch the Change


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Margaret Wild and Judith Rossell
Walker Books
What is this life, if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare’ said the poet W.H.Davies.
Pretty awful and extremely hectic, and that’s certainly so for the hero of this fantastic philosophical tale.
Bogtrotter lives his life in a gloomy cave in a mushy bog by night, and by day he dashes madly up, down and around the bog. He never questions this monotonous existence although on occasion and without knowing why, he feels bored, lonely and in need of a change.
The catalyst for that change comes in the form of a more radical frog who stops to question Bogtrotter’s unrelentingly dull existence then hops off with an “Ah,” leaving a Bogtrotter in whom a seed of change has already started to take root. Indeed he notices something small and yellow at his feet and …

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That night the flower is clutched tight to Bogtrotter when he goes to sleep and the following day he’s quickly up and off for his morning run but with a friendship forging stop en route. And so it goes on morning after morning, Bogtrotter embracing new experiences but all the while continuing with his same bog-bound running regime.

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Yet something still seems to be missing from this changed existence; what or who might it be?
There follows a timely reappearance of frog. “Do you ever run outside the bog?” he asks and leaves Bogtrotter pondering. Then, responding to the Frog’s question Bogtrotter is off on his run… over, up and over again DSCN4672 (800x600)
and … DSCN4673 (800x600)
I love the author’s contrasting characters – unimaginative, blinkered Bogtrotter and the more divergent thinking frog who does nothing much but pose two questions and respond entirely appropriately “Ah.” to what Bogtrotter replies.(He’d make a good early years teacher, that frog.)
I also love Judith Rossell’s watercolour renditions of those characters in the swampy scenes and the way she has made both Bogtrotter (despite his limited world view)

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and frog so endearing. I just wanted to hug that Bogtrotter tight and give him a few gentle shakes to get him out of his rut.
So much to think about, so much to talk about in this book; but first, share it and enjoy the journey, for that’s really what it is and it’s one I’d wholeheartedly recommend is undertaken by anyone from around four years old onwards.

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Hedgehugs Horace and Hattiepillar
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Marverick Arts Publising pbk
Handstanding Hattie and tree-climbing Horace hedgehogs are almost inseparable friends. One day they discover a tiny, smooth shiny object beneath a leaf; something that turns out to be a stripy and extremely hungry caterpillar. In no time at all it has devoured the leaf and Horace and Hattie have to go in search of fresh food supplies for the constantly growing creature. Until that is, it’s had it’s fill and is ready to pupate.
Then it’s a waiting time for the friends; but eventually they are rewarded with …

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If you want to know what happens when Hattie and Horace follow suit, you might try emulating the caterpillar

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in this sequel from the partnership that gave us the delightful Hedgehugs, find your own copy of this book. And, it would be wonderful to let children bury themselves in a fluffy bed of flowers (unpicked of course) – so long as they don’t get hay fever, that is.

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As in the first story, the richly patterned artwork is charming and may well encourage children to create their own Hattie and Horace collage pictures and perhaps, stories.

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‘Little Pig, Little Pig …’

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The Three Little Pigs
illustrated by Ed Bryan
Nosy Crow
Ed Bryan’s funky illustrations for this somewhat truncated version of the nursery favourite are full of humour. That the third little pig uses a kit to construct his brick house is a source of amusement to young audiences as are the three day-glow colour pots of paint

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he uses to adorn the exterior and it’s good to see evidence of his use of wind power. The Big Bad Wolf is rather a hoot too, sporting red plaid shorts and a baker’s hat. Even so he manages to scare the first and second little pigs as they cower inside the house of sticks before beating a hasty retreat to the safe haven of their brother’s brick house. Soon after, said wolf is huffing and puffing outside with his intention-revealing pie van parked close by;

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however as children relish, it’s not the porcine trio who receive a roasting but …

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One thing though – what is the role of the small rabbit who introduces himself on the title page and makes just one further silent appearance. I was hoping to see this bit-part developed during the course of the book.

There is a companion story, Cinderella,

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published at the same time by Nosy Crow and also illustrated by Ed Bryan.

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The Four Little Pigs
Kimara Nye and Marcin Bruchnalski
Maverick Arts Publishing
Tom’s Granny is a witch (she’s no threat to children I hasten to add) so it’s no surprise that her story sessions have an added touch of magic and when she starts reading him The Three Little Pigs at bedtime, she knows just how to respond to his “I know that story! … It’s boring.” comment.
In a flash Tom himself is cascaded into the tale,

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cast as a fourth pig and off he dashes to warn the three traditional protagonists of their impending doom. In fact he has all manner of tricky plans up his sleeve to outsmart the big bad wolf and protect the trio.
Even when the BBW does gain entry to the brick house, he finds himself face to face with a character who has the nerve to call him a bully. Far from happy at this home truth, he beats a hasty retreat and heads off to participate in an alternative tale leaving the three little pigs to – well we all know that part. And Tom? His choice for Granny Mag’s next bedtime story will definitely be Little Red Riding Hood.
This one went down very well with my audience of fours and fives who were all familiar with the tale’s progenitor and thoroughly enjoyed this twisted version, in particular the sight of the BBW whooshing across the soap-smeared floor.

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and the idea that Tom’s gran could change fairy tales at will – that’s something I suggested they might try for themselves.
Bruchnalski’s bold, bright, broad-brush watercolour illustrations add further new perspectives to the tale.

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Testing Situations with Mouse, Penguin Blue and Rhinoceros

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All Mine
Zehra Hicks
Macmillan Children’s Books
It’s lunch time: Mouse is just about to embark on his cheese sandwich when down swoops Seagull, pinches it,

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flies off and scoffs the lot. Mouse is far from pleased; he reprimands the thief for his bad manners and dashes off in search of something else to eat. Imagine how he feels when down swoops that greedy Seagull again and proceeds to polish off Mouse’s entire packet of crisps.

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The tiny rodent is anything but happy and both he and Seagull are still in need of sustenance. So will Seagull manage to gobble up the delicious looking confection that stops him dead in his tracks? It’s time for Mouse to draw on his resources if he’s to outwit that marauding bird and satisfy his hunger pangs, and that he does very cleverly.
That foxy-looking ‘puppet’ is just great and looks almost exactly the kind of thing young children make from scrap materials.

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That Zahra Hicks uses a stick for painting (combined with photography) to create her illustrations fascinated my audiences. I love her child-like simplicity and the way for instance, she has added the lower jaw to the fox.
A tasty book through and through. Who’s for cake?

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Blown Away
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins pbk
This seemingly simple, perfectly crafted tale is the thoroughly uplifting picture book debut from Art Director of the Observer Magazine, Rob Biddulph. By an interesting co-incidence, my copy arrived in the post on Sakrant, the day of India’s kite flying festival.
Far away in the Antarctic, Penguin Blue is test flying his brand new kite. The wind is particularly strong and before long our supposedly flightless friend finds himself airborne. Penguin pals Jeff and Flo, Wilbur (seal) pegging washing on his clothesline, and Clive, (polar bear) out fishing in his inflatable dinghy, attempt to help

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but they too are swept aloft and way across the ocean until they spy far below,
A tiny island, lush and green/(A colour that they’ve never seen). “The trees look soft, we’ll be all right./Hello jungle! Goodbye kite!” – the author’s rhyme is spot on as well as his design. Down they cascade into a jungly landscape full of friendly animals.

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However, unused to the tropical heat the friends long for home so it’s fortunate that Blue is the creative type. They can make use of the resources to hand and the same element that brought them there: all that’s required is another large gust of wind

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and the travellers are on their way, albeit with a stowaway.
Safely home and a warm welcome, but their visitor finds the climate far from comfortable;


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it’s as well then that Blue just happens to have a spare kite …


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Preposterous Rhinoceros
Tracy Gunaratnam and Marta Costa
Maverick Arts Publising pbk
The jungle animals are far from happy; King Lion has lost his voice and that means no bedtime story unless they can find another story reader. Rhinoceros is eager to step in; the others doubt his ability but reluctantly agree to let him try. When confronted with a book however, Rhinoceros is stymied; seemingly he’s misunderstood how the reading process works – the words don’t just speak themselves from the page and his key doesn’t unlock that text either. And shaking the book is disastrous.
Off goes Rhino in search of some storytelling advice. Both Drama Llama and Techie Toucan offer useful suggestions “Just open it and dive straight in,” (Llama) and “Just open it and get stuck in,”

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from Techie.
But Rhinoceros takes both literally with disastrous, or rather as Sly Salamander tells him, “preposterous” consequences.

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Nor does her own explanation “… They just need to be READ!” prove any more fruitful. But finally with Salamander’s help,

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Rhinoceros cracks the code and is ready to deliver his first bedtime tale – even though by that time, King Lion’s voice is fully restored.
The interaction of the verbal and visual definitely works well with young audiences. This chain of misunderstandings herein had my listeners, who are themselves learning to read, in fits of giggles
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Family Matters

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15 Things NOT to do with a Baby
Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Sibling jealousy (mixed with anticipation, love, anxiety) is a familiar scenario when a new sister or brother arrives in the family, though the topic is anything but new when it comes to picture books. Three that immediately come to mind are The New Small Person by Lauren Child, There’s Going to be a Baby – a collaboration between Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham and the Anholt’s Sophie and the New Baby .
Margaret McAllister takes a humorous approach to what can often be a mixture of strong feelings, presenting – rule-book style – a selection of Don’ts – a delicious mix of flights of fancy

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and some plausible situations.

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These are followed by a series of ‘Do’s culminating in an adorable

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all so beautifully depicted by new picture book illustrator, Holly Sterling whose work I first came across in Over the Hills and Far Away. Her illustrations herein exude both joie de vivre and a strong sense of love and affection. Who can resist smiling at such scenes as the baby planting, for instance?

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This is one loving family realistically portrayed, at a time of big change and emotional upheaval, with an endearing naturalness and modernity.

There’s a broader look at families in:

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Who’s In My Family?
Robie H. Harris and Nadine Bernard Westcott
Walker Books pbk
This is essentially an exploration of all manner of families through the speech bubble conversations of brother and sister Gus and Nellie, and a straightforward narrative information text. We join the siblings as they and their parents leave home and visit the zoo where they encounter and discuss a variety of familiies.

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’Some have two mummies. Some have two daddies.’ … ‘Some children live with their mummy part of the time and with their daddy part of the time.’
The whole tone of the book is positive, “FAMILIES LOVE BEING TOGETHER” … ‘But sometimes families have angry times. And sometimes families have unhappy times.
Illustrated in a suitably upbeat, digitally created style, this inclusive book is full of potential for discussion with under sevens,

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Alice Hemming and James Lent
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Subtitled ‘A Dad in a Box’, this is an offbeat look at one particular dad, Dylan and Daisy’s who, so they tell him is “not like normal dads,”. Their dad is an inventor and knows nothing about football (my kind of person perhaps?).
Dads don’t come in a box,” he tells them and goes on to prove his point in no uncertain terms by creating a robotic super dad complete with packaging.

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This invention speaks in rhyme and is eager to demonstrate his soccer prowess in the big match

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as well as cooking up a special dinner for football players.
By the end of a very unsatisfactory and exhausting day, Dylan and Daisy have come to an all-important realization about their own father and are more than happy when he makes a timely reappearance.

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Quirky illustrations and opportunities for joining in with the ‘robot speak’ add to the fun.

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Milo & Mucky: In Need of A Friend


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The Really Abominable Snowman
Valentina Mendicino
Walker Books
In a high Himalayan cave resides a smallish creature, with a terrible reputation. Milo, for that is the name his mother calls him, spends his time making things, cleaning, bathing and eating, not children but his favourite cherry cupcakes. Sad and lonely, he longs for a friend to share those cupcakes with. Time for a change, he decides. A makeover perhaps?

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Maybe not.
Social media? His tweets are a resounding failure and his foray into Facebook is sadly, a hilarious (for readers) case of misunderstanding.

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Undaunted Milo keeps trying until he comes across an announcement in the paper…
Surely that must be the answer but …
He’s even misunderstood by the Society of Misunderstood Creatures.

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Seemingly Milo is to remain friendless and lonely for ever? But wait; who is that bidding him ‘hello’?

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Could it be that longed for soul mate? Without wanting to spoil the ending, suffice it to say, it’s a victory for the power of cupcakes, and perseverance of course.
Valentina Mendicino’s 3D style, subtly coloured, digitally rendered illustrations convey Milo’s changing feeling and emotions (and those of the minor characters) humorously and touchingly. And there are plenty of amusing domestic details in this unusual story with misunderstandings aplenty, that has at its heart, a search for friendship and happiness. Delicious endpapers too. All in all, a tasty debut.
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Also on the theme of friendship is

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I Wish I’d Been Born a Unicorn
Rachel Lyon and Andrea Ringli
Maverick Arts Publishing
Mucky the horse has become somewhat malodorous on account of his dirty habits so the other animals avoid him. If only I’d been a unicorn, he wishes, then others might like me more. His wish is overheard by Owl who sagely tells him that true friends are concerned with feelings, not looks. He offers to help nonetheless and flies off to find the resources to make Mucky into a unicorn. The cows give him milk for the whiteness, which Frog obligingly churns, then he heads off to the beach in search of a pointy shell to serve as the horn. After a night’s work, Mucky has been transformed and is presented to his would-be friends.

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All appears to be going well until a big black cloud appears overhead. Oh-oh …
Will the other animals think less of him without his milky white coat or will Mucky realize that friendship awaits right under his brown nose?
Told in jaunty rhyme, the delightfully expressive, digitally rendered illustrations add much to this story. Those flies hovering around the whiffy Mucky are just one example of the visual humour

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and I love the idea of Frog churning the milk by swimming around in it.
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Fussy Animals – Rita’s Rhino and Alfie’s Yak

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Rita’s Rhino
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Young Rita decides to take things into her own hands when the pets she is offered by relations prove a big let down. Off she goes to the zoo and there offers a home to a rhinoceros no less. Having suitably disguised said animal, the pair depart

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for Rita’s residence. However it’s pretty tricky hiding a large animal in a small flat especially an upstairs one and the creature proves to be a very fussy eater – no toast, only very expensive African grass will do for him.
It’s not just his sheer size or his diet that present problems for Rita; his piles of poo are pretty tricky to hide too.

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Neither side is satisfied seemingly – lifts are not the rhino’s thing and he misses his comfy bed.
And then, Rita takes her pet to school, securing him belly up by the horn in the playground and informing the teacher that he’s a bouncy castle not a rhinoceros.
Imagine the children’s reaction; out they dash for a spot of bouncing

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and that is the beginning of the end. Off back to the zoo goes the rhino leaving a sad Rita who, from then on, has to be content with annual seaside visits with her erstwhile house pet.

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The perfect combination of understated text and brilliantly comic, droll illustrations work in absolute harmony in Ross’s wry take on pet ownership.
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While on the subject of picky animals there’s another one in this story:

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YUCK! Said the Yack
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
The young host in this amusing book also offers his visitor toast (with jam not marmalade though) and receives an unequivocal YUCK! Poor long-suffering Alfie gets the same answer in response to his offers of freshly picked apples,

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eggs, peas, cheese and even strawberry jelly and chocolate ice-cream. So he tries his hand at baking a delicious-looking cake but this meets with an even stronger reaction.

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Poor Alfie is beside himself “I GIVE UP!” he yells and then his visitor explains… “yaks like grass!” and offers Alfie a taste of this yummy fare. No prizes for guessing what Alfie replies …
Young audiences relish the opportunity to shout YUCK at almost every turn of the page of this short, enjoyable story and be amused by Emma Levey’s hilarious, wonderfully expressive portrayal of the fussy eater and his despairing host.
With its easy to read, rhyming text printed in large type, this is a book learner readers can enjoy for themselves after an initial read aloud from an adult.
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Grans are Great

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How to Hide a Lion from Grandma
Helen Stephens
Alison Green Books
In this follow up to How to Hide a Lion, Iris has a tricky problem: where to secrete her leonine companion when her parents go away and her Grandma comes to stay. When she duly arrives, Grandma brings an enormous box, so heavy that it’s a real struggle to carry it up the stairs: those hats and bits and bobs must be very heavy ones think her parents as they heave it to gran’s room just before they leave. Seemingly though Iris’s worries are unfounded: her Grandma is so short-sighted she mistakes the lion for all manner of household items from a lamp to a sofa

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and she doesn’t even notice when he accompanies them to the supermarket. So why is she buying such vast quantities of milk, bananas, peanut butter and honey (clue here)? Supposedly Grandma suffers from night time hunger pangs. Why too does she ignore Iris’s pleas to play dressing up with the contents of her trunk?
If you haven’t met Iris in How to Hide a Lion, then do make her acquaintance now; she’s a delightful character. So too is her Grandma – a really endearing, fun-loving person and just right for Iris.
With a slightly retro feel, and rendered in a somewhat subdued palette, Helen Stephens’ illustrations have an old-fashioned charm and are suffused with a gentle humour.
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There’s another funky Grandma in:

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How to Babysit a Grandma
Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Young babysitters like the little girl narrator of this companion to How to Babysit a Grandad know just how to keep a Grandma happy when it’s a sleepover at her house. The recipe is pretty much the same as before, much of the information being offered in the form of lists with vital tips on such things as how to say a silent I love you and how to make shadow foxes kiss goodnight at bedtime.
With a mix of full-page illustrations and smaller vignettes, there is much to feast the eyes on: some spreads are choc full of busy details such as the shoe shop

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and decorated gran scenes, (did I catch a glimpse of Grandad and his charge in the park pictures?) Others offer space for a more reflective lingering look like that of gazing at the first star of the evening.

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Just the thing for Grandmas to share with their charges and vice versa, especially when called upon to babysit.
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A Scarf and a Half
Amanda Brandon and Cataline Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Granny Mutton just loves to knit so when Little Lionel’s birthday draws near she starts making him a rainbow scarf. The only trouble is, she doesn’t know when to stop so it just gets longer and longer and longer … Having completed said scarf, she rolls it up, makes a parcel and gives it to her grandson. Excitedly, Little Lionel looks at its bulgy shape and convinced his present is a football, anticipates the fun he’ll have with his friends. Imagine his disappointment on discovering the contents of his parcel: off he goes looking decidedly bundled up and before long convinced that “… you can’t have a laugh with a scarf” abandons his useless gift. However his friends have more imagination and it’s not long before said article is being put to good use for all manner of fun activities for, as his friends all tell him, “That’s not a scarf, that’s a scarf and a half!” His Granny’s pretty cool too.
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Conflict and Resolution



Nina loves the idea of odd socks

Two Giants
Michael Foreman
Walker Books
How wonderful to see that Walker Books have brought back a Foreman story first published in the 1960s – one of his very early titles.
We meet two giants, great friends who live in a beautiful country where they make the birds sing and some even nest in their beards. Friends, that is, until one day they discover a pink shell and then oh dear, both want it for personal decoration. There follows a huge falling out,


stones are thrown, a flood comes and the giants find themselves on opposite sides of a cold sea. In a continuous winter, the fight carries on; rocks are hurled, each giant scoring multiple hits and all the while their anger is growing. The thrown rocks become stepping stones for Sam, armed with huge club, to visit a sleeping Boris. Boris however wakes and a world shaking, club-waving charge takes place.
Just in time though the two notice their footwear (muddled in the scramble to escape the flood) and standing stock still, remember the old days of friendship but not what the fight was about.


Time for a reconciliation … clubs tossed aside, the giants return to their islands, the sea recedes, wild life returns and before long all that separates the two mountains is a beautiful tree-filled valley where the seasons come and go once more and peace and harmony reigns. Guess what the friends now do as a reminder, no matter what …


It’s interesting to see how Foreman’s style has evolved over the years. For this gently humorous fable he has used paint and torn or cut paper collage to build up the scenes.
A book that is likely to appeal to children’s sense of the ridiculous, particularly those, and I do know some, who like to wear odd socks.
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There is arguing too in this Hueys story newly out in paperback:


The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
The usually peaceable Hueys are having an argument; what is it all about? One of their number, Gillespie wants to know but his question merely provokes further squabbling among the others. He asks again, “What ARE you fighting about?” Hmm – good question but can they come up with an answer?


Maybe distraction is a better form of conflict resolution in this situation …


oh have we come full circle here? Bzzz…
You need to start reading this hilarious book before the title page where the cause of the argument is visible; thereafter it becomes transformed into a bird, a flying teacup, a winged horse, even a flying elephant as the squabble escalates until Gillespie steps in and points out something that is lying lifeless on the floor.
Simple but certainly not simplistic is the manner in which Jeffers has depicted the Hueys and their trouble. The course of the argument is presented in speech bubbles and shown contained within a cloud above the Hueys’ heads


– very clever and a highly effective means of representation.
Assuredly one to have on the family or classroom bookshelf for those inevitable times of conflict, although once read it will quickly become an oft requested,
any time story.
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Cantankerous King Colin
Phil Allcock and Steve Stone
Maverick arts publishing
When King Colin wakes up feeling cantankerous he finds himself getting into all manner of minor conflicts with his wife Queen Christine.


Rosa and Nina sharing in King Colin’s cantankerous behaviour

She tries ruling against eating a ‘yucky and mucky’ breakfast, his refusal to wash his hands after using the loo, and his wearing of a shirt stinking of the previous night’s dinner.
Every time Queen Caroline said, “You can’t …”, King Colin’s response was the same: “I can,” and of course, because he was king, he could and he did. Hmm…silly, dirty, smelly King Colin. A sulky Colin decides to go for a horse ride. Imagine his displeasure then when he discovers his favourite horse, Pink Nose unsaddled.
More conflicts ensue during the ride and a furious Colin returns to the palace where, you’ve guessed it, he causes more upsets


until his roars of “I can!” are overheard by somebody who has the power to overrule our grumpy, crazy, lazy naughty monarch; it’s none other than Great Queen Connie. Guess where she sends her badly behaved son.
A humorous story illustrated in cartoon style with appropriately garish colours to match Colin’s over-the-top character and told through a patterned text; children will relish Colin’s somewhat disgusting habits and enjoy joining in with the Queen’s ‘ You can’ts ’ and the oft repeated, ‘ “I can,” said King Colin … because he was king.’ They could also offer suggestions as to how the king could mend his undesirable ways and present them in poster form perhaps.
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Bedtime Bookshelf


Zoom Zoom Zoom
Katherina Manolessou
Macmillan Children’s Books
Unable to sleep in their jungly environment, Bird and Monkey fly off, Zoom Zoom Zoom on a night-time lunar excursion. Their landing brings them face to face with a friendly alien who invites them aboard his spaceship. On the way they count five glowing orange meteors, four pink alien arms, join in a race of three green moon buggies,


climb two yellow ladders and press one red button on the spaceship to blast them off back home to earth and finally, to sleep.
Taking a popular children’s song as her starting point Katerina Manolessou has created a glowing debut picture book. With its combination of superb design, arresting screen printed illustrations in vibrant colours, endearing characters, counting opportunities and a well-loved song, this is sure to become a firm favourite with early years audiences as well as parents and youngsters at bedtime.
I look forward to seeing more from this promising artist.
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Bing Bed Time
Ted Dewan
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
Toddler bedtime Bing style is going fairly smoothly despite some inevitable procrastinations. With potty time postponed,


teeth brushed and bath time over, it’s time to get into some pyjamas. choose a story and snuggle up with Flop. But where is Flop? Under the covers? Playing hide and seek? Outside in the dark even? Nope. Bing is distraught but what’s that protruding from under the bed?
With the pair safely tucked in, it’s time to turn out the big light. But now, where is Bing? – back on his potty to do the necessary – all by himself. Finally both Bing and Flop are safely snuggled up and sound asleep.
First published over a decade ago, this reissue is sure to delight a new generation of tinies who will be entertained by the endearing Bing and his every day activities. Dewan’s bold, bright, uncluttered illustrations are immediately engaging and have sufficient detail to hold the attention of the very young.
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Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard
Steve Cole and Bruce Ingman
Jonathan Cape pbk
The New Babysitter is having a very hard time with Joe and Ellie who simply refuse to stay in bed for more than a few minutes.She threatens all manner of things such as the sleep ray zapping robot and the toy-munching monster but the children merely laugh. Refusing to be beaten however, the babysitter has one final weapon in her armoury. Could she, would she, should she let that leopard loose? Maybe not, but GROWL… Oh! What’s that cuddly, snuggly sleep-inducing sweetie doing in the bedroom… Snore… silence.
No doubt every parent and babysitter would welcome a leopard like the one in Cole and Ingman’s amusing tale with its satisfying, somewhat surprising ending. Ingman’s illustrations have a slightly retro feel to them. His seemingly flattened images, especially of the characters, bring to mind the cut out paper people that children love to create and play with in their own stories.


It is this child-like innocence that make his work such a delight.
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Princess Stay Awake
Giles Paley-Phillips and Adriana J. Puglisi
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
No matter what her parents do, feisty young Princess Layla just refuses to go to sleep. They call in all manner of people to help but none can send her off to the land of nod and neither can the new, specially made, extra snug bed. Indeed it has the opposite effect making a splendid launch pad for all manner of leaping and bouncing activities.


Thoroughly exhausted, the Queen and King decide to call upon Grandma for assistance. Her tactics are somewhat different; she requests that Layla stays awake. Confusing for Princess Stay Awake perhaps, but what is that we see? Droopy eyelids and floppy limbs, aaahhh… Grandmas do know best.
Perhaps bedtime isn’t the best time to share Paley-Phillips jaunty rhyming story with youngsters; they may well decide to try some of Princess Layla’s delaying mischief.
Puglisi’s bright, jolly pictures are sure to bring a smile to young stay awakes (and there are plenty of those); how angelic that princess looks as she proceeds to exhaust all those called in to tire her out.
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So Cosy
Lerryn Korda
Walker Books
A snuggle cumulative style begins when Dog curls up in his comfy basket. Before long he has been joined by Goose, Cat, several rabbits, a Mummy Bear and her baby, Goat, Snake and even Elephant all wanting to cosy up. Contentment reigns supreme but then patter, patter, patter, along Mouse comes with his tickly feet onto the tip of Elephant’s trunk. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAA … ”


The enormous sneeze sends the animals tumbling leaving the basket to its rightful owner and just one very small visitor really cosy.
Perfectly pitched for the very young. An absolute delight: simply irresistible.
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Ten Monsters in the Bed
Katie Cotton and Aaron Bleecha
Templar Publishing
Were tucked up face-to-face.
We’re really very squashed,” they said.
“We need a bit more space.” ‘
So begins a wonderfully anarchic version of the monster countdown rhyme wherein we encounter a snoring Sleepy, a burping Belchy, a screaming Scaredy, a snot dripping Sneezy, a scratchy flea-ridden Itchy, a snack munching Greedy, a Hiccupy, a dribbling Slurpy, a room-shaking Farty and a boinging, bouncing Giggly as each is jettisoned from the top bunk.


But, by the time they are all piled up on top of one another on the floor, the squash is  worse than ever. All this action creates havoc for the long-suffering solo occupant of the lower bunk who is forced to give up his bedtime reading and take shelter under the bedclothes.
I’d strongly advise you not to read this at bedtime as an initial sharing is certain to result in repeated demands of ‘read it again’. You could well be there for some time especially as the noises generated by the invitation to press each evicted monster’s white button results in an appropriate sound and further hilarity. A sure fire winner!


Dylan is disgusted by the yucky monsters

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Love is in the Air


Foxy in Love
Emma Dodd
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
Emily is making a Valentine’s card but is unsure about what to draw. Along comes Foxy to her aid. “What do you love best of all?” he asks her. With some timely flicks of his magic bushy tail, misinterpretations not withstanding, he goes on to help her create an almost perfect card. But, there still seems to be something missing; just what can that vital ingredient be?


Time for further thinking. Foxy has something very important to explain to Emily: Valentine’s Day isn’t about WHAT one loves but WHOM. So who is the object of Emily’s affections? Foxy, of course! And moreover, the feeling is mutual.
Emma Dodd has created a pair of adorable characters in Emily and Foxy. This, the second story about the duo should mean that they make a whole lot of new friends among readers meeting them for the first time as well as pleasing those who have already made their acquaintance.
Perfect for sharing with loved ones around Valentine’s Day, or any other time for that matter.
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Bear in Love
Daniel Pinkwater and Will Hillenbrand
Walker Books pbk
Bear is puzzled. One morning when he wakes up he discovers a tasty carrot has been left at the entrance to his cave.


The following day there are two, the next day, three and then on the fourth day, a whole bunch. “Someone must like me,” thinks the bear to himself singing happily. He decides to reciprocate the kindness of his mystery friend and leaves an offering at the mouth of his cave in return, determining to see who comes. Having gorged himself however, the bear falls fast asleep and wakes to discover a new offering. This exchange of edible treats goes on for several nights until finally the bear discovers the identity of his secret friend. Although it’s something of a surprise for the bear, young children will probably have guessed the identity of mystery friend long before bear discovers it.
Pinkwater has penned a sweet, gentle story about a large bear, endearingly portrayed through Hillenbrand’s lovely mixed media illustrations rendered predominantly in soft shades of greens, browns, greys and blues. In fact both characters are totally huggable.
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Dinosaur Kisses
David Ezra Stein
Walker Books
Newly hatched, Dinah dinosaur is full of the joys of just being alive in a world with so much to see and do. Eager to be part of everything she tries stomping and then chomping. But having seen kissing, that’s next on her agenda; the trouble is, finding a suitable subject for her kisses. That’s altogether more tricky as she soon learns … WHOMP! CHOMP! STOMP! Best intentions notwithstanding, several mishaps and some thinking time later, Dinah finally discovers her perfect kissing partner. Hmm, maybe.


Wonderfully expressive crayon and watercolour pictures, smatterings of onomatopoeia, the surprise ending, and the anarchic dino siblings are just some of the ingredients of this hilarious romp.
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Paul Meets Bernadette
Rosy Lamb
Walker Books
Goldfish, Paul, spends all his time swimming round and round in his bowl, until one day, Bernadette drops in. She introduces him to the world outside and encourages him to look beyond the glass and think about what he sees. The yellow object on the plate (banana) “is a boat!” she tells him and the blue teapot “is an elephant.” … “But you must not disturb her when she is feeding her babies.


This gently humorous (goldfish style romance) book demonstrates how life changes when that special one comes along to expand your vision, altering the way you see things
Rosy Lamb illustrates her goldfish romance with thick brushstrokes and daubs, dropping the goldfish bowl, bubble-like, to take centre stage on the spread, or seemingly floating among the other everyday items.
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The Driftwood Ball
Thomas Docherty
Templar Publishing pbk
George is a badger; Celia is an otter. They live with their respective families , Celia in the sea, George in the forest beside it. The two families have poor opinions of one another, all except George and Celia that is. Surprisingly though both badgers and otters have something in common; they love to dance albeit with distinctive styles. Not so George and Celia, theirs are a fusion of badger and otter steps. When the annual Driftwood ball draws close, all the animals set their sights on the trophy awarded to best dancer, practising their moves hard. Tired of the constant shimmying and jigging, Celia and George find themselves face to face on the seashore and it’s a case of love at first sight. At the ball next day with the dance in full swing, there are suddenly just two dancers moving, dancing paw in paw what’s more;


and theirs is a transformative dance in more ways than one.
The joys of dancing are eloquently expressed in Thomas Docherty’s finely drawn ink and watercolour illustrations. These are infused with a gentle humour and the variety of expressions he manages to create on the animals’ faces is remarkable.
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The Perfect Hug
Joanna Walsh and Judi Abbot
Simon and Schuster (board book edition)
There are hugs for wrigglers and hugs for gigglers. Hugs that are tickly, and hugs that are prickly … ‘ In fact there are so many different hugs little panda hasn’t managed to find one that is just right for him so he sets out to look. Having searched over land and under sea,


out in space even, back he comes to find the perfect hug waiting right where he started.
I’d like to think, indeed I’m trusting, that the perfection is not because the embrace is given by one of his own kind but because he is returning another’s hug. You could initiate a discussion about this with young children.
Circle time is a great time for sharing and passing round a hug and this rhyming book with its cute pastel pictures could be a suitable starting point for nursery settings.
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Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk.
Best friends Hattie and Horace hedgehog have a thorny problem, or should we say, a hugging problem. No matter what they try they just cannot manage to give each other a hug.


Then one sunny day they come upon a washing basket filled with odd-looking items including a soft thing with a tunnel- like entrance. With a bit of wriggling and jiggling, Horace manages to poke his arms through and after further nibbling out pops his face. Hattie is inspired and makes herself a similar shaped, prickle-covering garment. After that it’s a case of no holds barred and moreover, we now all know the reason for those odd socks that never seem to have a pair no matter how hard we search.
This is the first picture book collaboration from author/artist partnership Wilson and Tapper and a promising one it is. Patterns abound in the bright, fresh illustrations and the hedgehogs, with their problem solving ideas, are an endearing pair. I wonder whether the characters might be further developed into a mini series for the very youngest.
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