Ready for Spaghetti

Ready for Spaghetti
Michael Rosen, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Walker Books

Michael Rosen’s consummate skill at creating rhymes that small children and indeed grown ups find irresistible, is legendary. He knows so well the importance of rhyme, rhythm and repetition in crafting playful compositions as demonstrated in every one of the thirty plus rhymes in this terrific book, joyfully illustrated by Polly Dunbar.

It takes youngsters through the day as they embrace those commonplace routines turning them into opportunities for spontaneous creativity and imaginative play. Whether its looking at a reflection in the mirror, rushily brushily cleaning teeth and whoosh, whoosh, whooshing and sploshy sploosh-ing in the bathroom, breakfasting on an eggy with a plate of bready soldiers, dancing with delight ( sporting a rather over-size pair of shoes), or with a pal perhaps; taking a break to talk to the sun or address a balloon, the delight – mostly – of the child participant is evident in Polly’s picture of same.

These small children, (like those I’ve taught over the years) love to converse with tiny creatures as they do in Bumblebee and Butterfly and Snail. The bumblebee one, the first verse of which is : ‘Bumblebee rumble, / Bumblebee tumble, / Buzzy Bee bumble … / Give me apple crumble!’ takes me back to Russian poet Kornei Chukovsky’s words in his seminal work, From Two to Five wherein he called young children linguistic geniuses.

No matter where you open this book you’ll find words and pictures you will love to share, be that with a class, or at home, at any time and preferably as many times as possible through the day. Don’t miss out on the opportunity: get a copy of this beautiful book. Later on those same children will pick it up and they will delight in reading it aloud to you. They’ll likely want to invent their own songs, and create word pictures and colourful drawings as well.

I Am Hungry

I Am Hungry
Michael Rosen and Robert Starling
Walker Books

Following the smashing I Am Angry collaboration between Michael Rosen and Robert Starling is another offering from the poetry book A Great Big Cuddle, which again results in a terrific read aloud picture book for foundation stage children especially.

Expanding on the ideas in Michael’s poem, Robert Starling’s illustrations are executed in bright, bold hues and his characterisation of Squirrel (and the bit part players) in his dramatic scenes is superbly done.

In an introductory note, Michael writes that when he feels hunger pangs he sometimes daydreams about things he could eat, some real and some weird, going on to suggest that this might become a game. Seemingly Squirrel has read those words for that is what the ravenous creature does: starting from normal hunger sating fare like bread rolls and popcorn, cheese and peas, things become decidedly outlandish – a funny joke,

a very bad dream, a frying pan,

a nasty fright for example.

Youngsters will relish this absurdity and delight in thinking up their own lists of possibilities. What a wonderful starting point for flights of fancy – verbal or written – this would make after a class sharing of this super book.

I Am Angry

I Am Angry
Michael Rosen and Robert Starling
Walker Books

This book has its origins in Michael’s experience of watching his youngest child having a temper tantrum. He then decided to write a poem about anger that was included in A Great Big Cuddle and now based on that poem we have the first in a new series by the poet and illustrator Robert Starling.

The big bad mood presented here is the kind that comes from nowhere in particular, causing huge noise making –

thrashing and bashing, bodily contortions – rolling on the ground and knocking down trees actions, raging and rampaging, squashing the moon

and terrifying the sun sort of angry, which then vanishes just as rapidly as it arrived.. All this from what appears to be a cuddlesome creature.

Parents and indeed teachers of young children will immediately recognise such scenarios and welcome this smashing book with its reassuring message that however overpowering such anger might feel, it’s soon over, often leaving the once angry person feeling tired out.

Robert Starling has already demonstrated his skill at portraying anger with Fergal is Fuming and now in combination with Michael’s superb rhyming text has created a terrific read aloud picture book for sharing with little ones in an early years setting or at home.

Honey for You, Honey for Me

Honey for You, Honey for Me
collected by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Walker Books

I danced around the kitchen and leapt in glee on opening the parcel containing this book from the team that gave us the anthology A Great Big Cuddle.

It’s an absolutely stonking first book of forty nursery rhymes and one of the very best gifts you could give a baby or toddler.

Michael has always been fascinated with nursery rhymes calling them ‘surprising little dramas, full of mysteries and unanswered questions.’ Like this reviewer he’s been an avid collector of books of nursery rhymes and in this new one of his, Michael has put not only popular favourites and playground chants, but also some rhymes that have lain forgotten perhaps for a generation or two.

From cavorting elephants en route from Wibbleton to Wobbleton, wibbly wobbly jelly and frizzle frazzle sausages,

as well as dancing ones summoned into life by a whistling boy, a mop-consuming dog and a ton weight of a giant who’s all a-tremble at the mere sight of a mouse – we know we’ve entered that magical land of topsy turvy where playful language is loved for the sheer delight it offers both to those who hear it and to those who utter it.

Chris Riddell’s illustrations are outstanding, making the characters utterly memorable in a new way, be they of those you might already have met such as the all in black clad Miss Mary Mack and Little Poll Parrot or some delightful revelations that for me were the hiccup remedy …

the hungry frog and for the sheer joy of sharing something delectably new and bouncy to boot, ‘Dibbity, dibbity, dibbity, doe, / Give me a pancake and I’ll go. // Dibbity, dibbity, dibbity, ditter, / Please to give me a bit of fritter.’

For utter adorableness, Chris’s character illustration that completely stole my heart was The man in the moon.

Guaranteed to become a favourite in any household with young children, in nursery and early years settings and with anybody who wants to promote a love of language and art for their own sake (surely, that’s pretty much all of us), this is joyful magic from cover to cover.

Flights of Fancy

Flights of Fancy
Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson, Anthony Browne, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Lauren Child
Walker Books

Now in paperback, here’s a truly special gem of an anthology subtitled ‘Let your imagination soar with top tips from ten Children’s Laureates’. It brings together the ten awesome authors and illustrators who have held the title (given in celebration of their outstanding achievements) and first awarded to Quentin Blake in 1999.

To open, Michael Morpurgo explains how the original idea of the role (each person holds it for two years), was first thought up by himself and Ted Hughes, the then Poet Laureate.

You might be especially interested in poetry, rhyme and wordplay, if so head first to the sections from Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson. Michael in Poetry Belongs to Everyone talks about playing around with a word to create a poem. Julia Donaldson’s Plays to Read and to Write discusses one of her own plays that she based on the Aesop’s fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, offering a fun, lively 6-parter

If you’d rather be playful in the visual sense then Anthony Browne’s The Shape Game could be your starting point: having talked about how to play it, he showcases some examples from 3 other famous illustrators to whom he gave the same shape to play as the one of his own shown in the book. The potential with this one is endless. Probably that is the case with most of the chapters however.

In The Only Way to Travel, Quentin Blake writes with reference to  Dahl’s stories, about how when illustrating someone else’s texts it’s important to ‘put yourself inside their story’ and capture the atmosphere before diving in and drawing those fabulous illustrations of his.

More about how other fabulous illustrators approach their drawing and what provides their inspiration comes from Chris Riddell –

make sure you check out his brilliant cartoons of all ten Children’s Laureates in the final section – and Lauren Child.

How fantastic and moving is Michael Morpurgo’s Find Your Own Voice that tells children how to do so in ‘I Believe in Unicorns’.
I thoroughly enjoyed too, Malorie Blackman’s Taking a Word for a Walk using SEA as her example,

before she moves on to discussing from whose viewpoint a story is being told when one writes.

If you want to inspire children to let their imaginations soar, then you really, really must have a copy of this cracker of a book in your home or classroom; not only will it do just that, but it will also ignite or add fuel to a passion for reading, writing and illustrating. (BookTrust, which manages the Children’s Laureate gets 50p from every sale.)

A Dog’s Tale

A Dog’s Tale
Michael Rosen and Tony Ross
Scholastic

Full of worldly wisdom, is this rhyming discourse from an old dog to a concerned pup as the two take a walk together.

Reassuring from the outset, ‘an epic life story that YOU get to write. … Be wide-open hearted … Fill up on hope, throw away fears’ comes the advice.

Life promises plenty of action …

no matter where your journey takes you … and opportunities – ‘you can make a mark! Make yourself heard –‘ although it’s important to be prepared for life’s downsides too – those waiting in the wings to do you down; or you might suffer the loss of a loved one.

However nobody need feel completely alone; there’ll be a friend to help you through times of sadness.

Perhaps a time will come when others will require your help; give and take is the best scenario. What we all need be we young, old or in-between, is a world where everyone is willing to share, a world where life is fair.

So says the sage old canine after which he retires for a well-earned snooze.

If only: we still have an awful long way to go but this book from two pillars of children’s books and reading, writer Michael and artist Tony, is a great reminder of what we should all be striving for. I’m no lover of dogs but I certainly fell for Michael’s canine characters as portrayed by Tony Ross in his superbly expressive scenes.

Share, discuss and act upon the advice herein wherever, whenever possible.

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

I am Little Fish!
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

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

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

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

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

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

Wiggly Wiggly
Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell
Walker Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake
Michael Rosen and Kevin Waldron
Puffin Books

I can’t possibly imagine how many times I shared Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake poem from Quick Let’s Get Out of Here during my time as a primary teacher; it was certainly the most requested poem with countless classes and always an ideal offering to have at the ready when working in an advisory capacity. So to learn it was to be published in picture book format with Kevin Waldron supplying the illustrations was very exciting.
The poem itself is sheer genius telling of a little boy who just cannot get out of his mind the scrumptious chocolate cake he’s sampled earlier in the day and, knowing that there’s a considerable chunk still downstairs, cannot resist its temptation.
He creeps out of bed (ensuring he misses the creaky floorboard outside his parents’ bedroom) and downstairs into the kitchen. There, in the cupboard, is the object of his desire …

Out it comes and he notices there just happen to be some crumbs, and that the cake itself needs a spot of tidying up …

until things get just a tad out of control …

Such are the agonising details  used to relate the whole experience, that we’re right in that child’s head as he’s overwhelmed by desire, and we’re desperately wanting him not to get caught – which of course he does, although not until the following morning.
Oh dear, the embarrassment, the humiliation …

Kevin Waldron brilliantly captures all the subterfuge, the suspense and the final priceless denouement in his deliciously funny scenes, every one of which will leave you spluttering with delight.
If the whole thing doesn’t get your taste buds all a-tingling, then nothing will.

Time for a Poem

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Jelly Boots Smelly Boots
Michael Rosen and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I’m not sure who has more fun when it comes to Michael Rosen and poetry – the author or the children who read or listen to, his offerings. For this collection of over seventy rhymes, wordplays and musings including a sprinkling of ‘dustbin poems’ he has a new illustrator in the wonderful David Tazzyman; and as always it’s a cause for celebration. Rosen has the unfailing knack of drawing children in to his language meanderings and showing them what pleasures poetry has to offer. Try ‘Question Mark’ for starters …

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or Mm? which begins thus: ‘Can you cancan on a can?/ Can you carwheel on a cart? / Will you whistle in the wind? ? Have you heard it in your heart?

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I suspect this is going to be another of those collections where an adult chooses a poem, reads it to a class or group and is immediately asked for another and another and … Enough said! Try it and see.

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Topsy Turvy Animals
Wes Magee and Tracey Tucker
QED
A plethora of animals pursuing unlikely pastimes are presented by poet Wes Magee in this crazy rhyming world where there are somersaulting tigers, stilt-walking meerkats, a cartwheeling moose and a pair of macaws that must be tired of life judging by where they’ve chosen to perform their ablutions …

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And this poor cat is the unexpected recipient of a very large splat …

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Tracey Tucker animates all this madness and more with riotous, appropriately garish scenes in a variety of settings – icy, sandy, rocky, mountainous, jungly and grassy.
The main messages children will pick up here are: that language is fun; and that if you give full rein to your imagination, anything can happen …

If like me, you believe that nursery rhymes should form the bedrock upon which a child can build a love of poetry, then this beautifully produced book may be of interest.

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Classic Nursery Rhymes
illustrated by Dorothy M.Wheeler
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Time was that the 29 rhymes contained herein were known by almost all young children starting school or a nursery class; sadly, that’s not so nowadays.
Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell has written the foreword for this centenary publication of rhymes with art work  by Dorothy M. Wheeler whose claims to fame include being the illustrator of some of Enid Blyton’s books such as The Magic Faraway Tree. Her highly detailed watercolour illustrations for this book evoke a bygone era …

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when the rhymes were learned on a mother’s or grandmother’s knee and perhaps sung around a family piano. (The second part of the book contains music for each rhyme.)

Crazy Car Rides

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Mad in the Back
Michael Rosen and Richard Watson
Picture Squirrels
I first encountered a previous incarnation of this (called The Car Trip) in Michael Rosen’s book of poems The Hypnotiser when it was a much requested read aloud with a class of infants I was teaching in the late 1980s. Sadly the book it’s from is now out of print but I still have my rather battered André Deutsch copy on a shelf.
So, it’s great to have this slightly reworked version now available as a Picture Squirrel with Richard Watson’s riotous pictorial rendering of the journey.
Essentially what we have is an account of a long-suffering mother driving a small car and being driven to distraction by the on-going bantering and demands of the two small children in the back seat, aptly called ‘The Moaning’.

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It begins thus: “Can I have a drink?”I want some crisps.” “Can I open my window?’ “He’s got my book.” and switches to “Get off me.” “Ow that’s my ear.
I suspect by now many adults will find themselves reminded of similar scenarios with their own offspring although I’m sure they’d no longer resort to such ‘exciting’ comments as “Look out the window – there’s a lamp-post.” Or “Look -… there’s a tree.” as distractions from the back seat bickering.
The whole thing works really well as a picture book. I envisage much giggling when this is read aloud…

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and scenes similar to those depicted therein are likely to ensue as to whose turn it is to read it. I can just hear them now…
(If you haven’t come across Barrington Stoke’s Picture Squirrels before then essentially the philosophy is an all inclusive one: the font used is a ‘dyslexia-friendly’ one and the tinted background aims to ‘reduce visual stress’.)

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Peg + Cat The Race Car  Problem
Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Walker Books
Peg and Cat are stars of an award winning TV series and now they roar into their very own picture book to participate in the Tallapegga Twenty race. First though, they have to construct their vehicle from bits and pieces they find at the scrap yard. And a great job they make of it, as soon as they’ve sorted out the right shaped wheels, that is. Once at the race track their supreme confidence dips drastically when they see the opposition. Should they give up before the race begins? Of course not, says organizer Ramone, so the race is on… and it’s fortunate that Peg is able to keep count of the laps completed and work out who’s in the lead:

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anything can happen in the course of 20 circuits. She does however need a bit of a reminder from Cat to stay calm and count backwards when she’s “totally freaking out!” over the broken side pipe.

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But who will be the first to cross the finish line and win that golden cup? Could it possibly be our problem-solving crew Peg and Cat in Hot-Buttered Lightning? One thing is certain; the victory won’t be an easy one whoever wins.
With its in-built maths challenges and lots going on in the bright pictures, this book is likely to appeal particularly to those young readers and listeners who are somewhat mathematically inclined.

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Don’t miss the Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition in Piccadilly if you’re in London between 23rd and  29th   October              C090B987-9FD4-47C9-A6E5-CEEE0DD83F4E[6]

A Great Big Cuddle

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A Great Big Cuddle
Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell
Walker Books
Thirty five super-silly new poems from the Rosen pen each one stupendously illustrated by Riddell simply sizzle with the joys of early childhood and a few of the pains too.
I love his playful take on beginning reading – Reading Lesson:
This is how you read:/Can you see?/ This says “you”/ This says “me”./ /
When you see “me”/ You say “me”/ When you see “you”/ Say “you” – do you see?//
Altogether now:/ Can you see?/ You, you, you/ Me, me, me.??
Well done all./ That’s it for today. You can all read./ You can go and play.
But in reality every single one of these delicious offerings is a better in-built reading lesson than any of the contrived phonics or word recognition sessions that children in their early years are all too often subjected to.
What Rosen is doing in this book is enhancing children’s metalinguistic awareness and what comes across here loud and clear is that language is fun and playing around with it even more so…

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As one would expect, rhyme, rhythm and repetition are key ingredients and there’s a fair amount of nonsense with occasional echoes of Lear and Milligan alongside some more serious poems such as Lost wherein a small being sits contemplating being left all alone. There are rhymes that make you want to sit still and savour the words and others such as TIPPY-TAPPY and BOING! BOING! that make you and certainly tinies want to get up and move: Boing! Boing!/ Bounce bounce/ I’m a ball/ Bounce bounce./ Jump jump/ Pounce pounce/ I’m a tiger/ Pounce pounce/ ROARRRRRR!

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Riddell’s visual interpretations in pencil and watercolour are often gloriously inventive …

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and at appropriate times, quietly reflective renderings of moments of tenderness …

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His menagerie of larger than life animals, imaginary creatures and monsters provide talking points aplenty and a visual treat to match Rosen’s verbal ones on every spread.
A two-laureate treat and a must have book for anyone who has dealings with the very young. Buy it for the words, buy it for the pictures, buy it because in tandem the whole experience is a joy.

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Diverting Dog Tales

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Seb and Hamish
Jude and Niki Daly
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Like this reviewer, (who was mauled by an Alsatian aged five) young Seb suffers from cynophobia. Consequently, when he accompanies his mother on a visit to Mrs Kenny and hears ‘Woof-woof! Woof-woof’ coming from inside when they ring the doorbell his response is “Home.” (think mine would have been too.)

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Seb’s unease worsens when he comes face to face with the high-spirited Hamish but once he’s safely shut away, Seb begins to entertain himself.

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But when Seb stops his toy train for a tea break (courtesy of Mrs Kenny’s freshly baked cookies) he loses the nose button from a cookie and it rolls under a door: The very door behind which is Hamish. The two come finger to tongue

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and then, eye-to-eye, then slowly and tentatively, a new friendship is formed.

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(Did time speed up here, one wonders? Can a deep-seated fear be overcome so easily and rapidly?)
Nevertheless a heartwarming story all in all and it’s good to see that Mrs K. was so understanding and accommodating about Seb’s fear of her pet; not all dog-owners are.
Very engaging watercolour illustrations; I particularly love the littering of canine

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(or rather dachshund) ephemera in some scenes.

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Monster
Michael Rosen and Neal Layton
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
A witty, offbeat tale of starting school told from the viewpoint of a book-writing dog, whose human, Rover is going to school for the first time. Rex, (who bears a striking resemblance to the author), Cindy – Rover’s mum and Howler (so named on account of her continual Cindy-distracting howls), make up the rest of the cast. Oh and the Monster of the title from whom the narrator seeks to save his pet human. Seemingly the entire family is in a bit of a state judging from the chaotic scenes on the all-important morning

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and the frantic departure, which leaves our canine narrator alone in the house, temporarily at least. But then he makes a break for it, following his sniffer, hot on the trail of Rover

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all the way to ‘a place where hundreds of other small humans are kept. ‘ The determined creature finds a way into the ‘cage’ (full of monsters?) where he proceeds to create chaos and confusion before ascertaining that all is well with Rover; and having discovered she’s actually enjoying herself, goes back home. And there he waits until her return, just like always.
Comical telling and visuals are part and parcel of the package, the third to feature this family and its artistic creators.

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A Bus Ride and A Lullaby for a Little One

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The Bus Is For Us!
Michael Rosen and Gillian Tyler
Walker Books
But best is the bus.The bus is for us.’ is the oft-repeated refrain linking the various possibilities entertained by the narrator of this book. A small boy enjoys riding his bike; others like journeys by car or train, horse riding, floating in a little boat or a trip in a big ship,

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would love to ride a fish, sit on a cloud or dangle from a kite, play in a sleigh, perhaps try even more daring modes of transport

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but no matter what, the bus is best and by the end, readers are in no doubt about why.
The combination of Rosen’s shortish, playful rhyming text and Gillian Tyler’s delightful portrayal of the cast of a dozen young characters- not to mention the shaggy dog – who, as the story concludes at the end of the day,

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have all boarded the bus, is great fun.

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A Lullaby for Little One
Dawn Casey and Charles Fuge
Nosy Crow pbk
As the sun goes down the Little One of the title is in the woods with Big Daddy Rabbit but, he tells his offspring, there is still time for some fun and games before bedtime. So together the two of them race and chase and shout, “Woo-hoo!”, then other animals enthusiastically join them in a game of hide-and-seek, some splashing and sploshing

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and as the sun begins to set, they all dance and sing, whirl, twirl, and shout together before ending up in a great big heap. Whereupon a thoroughly exhausted Little One utters a “BOO-HOOOOOO!” and Big Rabbit knows just what to do next …

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And finally, father and baby rabbit snuggle together in the moonlight. Aaahh!
Dawn Casey’s rollicking rhyming text combined with Charles Fuge’s gorgeous georgic watercolour scenes make for a warm-hearted bedtime read for the very young.

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Family Friendly Books

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Freddy and the Pig
Charlie Higson and Mark Chambers
Red Squirrel Books
School is anything but Freddy’s favourite place; he’d far rather be at home playing games on his Xbox. So he devises a clever plan, one involving a porcine substitute. This allows young Fred to stay lounging at home, racking up his levels on Total Death War, all the while growing more and more rotund. Pig meantime grows to love school and is even sticking up his trotter in class;

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he’s helpful around the house too. Soon it is hard for Mum to distinguish boy from pig so massive is Freddy

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and so grunt-like his utterances. Eventually she sells her son to a local farm and sends the pig to university though that’s not quite the end of the story.
This amusing cautionary tale is one of the latest additions to the Red Squirrel dyslexia-friendly books, the hallmarks of which are good stories, well illustrated and presented in a clear type face set against a plain, uncluttered background so that all parents can share them with their children.
Buy from Amazon
In the same series is:

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Wolf Man
Michael Rosen and Chris Mould
Red Squirrel Books
Just what or who are all the terrified local residents running from? It’s Wolfman and he’s escaped from his cage and is rampaging through the town, tearing up paving stones and consuming lamp-posts.

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Even the army is too terrified to do anything: but where is Wolfman heading to? It’s certainly not the park, nor the swimming pool. Wait a minute, that’s the house of the Chief of Police our hairy horror is making for, where, behind firmly closed doors cowers the jittering policeman.
So exactly what has compelled Wolfman to come here leaving a trail of havoc in his wake?

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Suffice it to say it is connected to a weak bladder and an urgent need.
Typical Michael Rosen madness – slightly over the top and deliciously subversive; just the thing to make less than confident readers want to keep turning the pages, especially when his well chosen words are combined with Chris Mould’s wickedly wacky images.
Assuredly one to help families ‘Grow a Love of Reading’ which is what this series aims to do.
Buy from Amazon

Where better place to start growing that love than:

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Zeki Loves Baby Club
Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson
Alanna Books pbk
We join Zeki and his mum at home before they set off for their regular Wednesday Baby Club session at the local library. There they meet lots of other babies and parents, and the club leader who has brought all manner of exciting instruments, some props and her repertoire of suitable toddler songs and rhymes. This week, after greeting one another,

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they sing the happy song with actions, play peek-a-boo (with translucent scarves to peep through) and join in the ‘stretchy’ and ‘rolly’ songs. Then it’s time for some noisy  fun with cuddly animals,

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more action rhymes and a final cuddle-up story before bidding farewell and ‘see you next time’ to all those friends.
At the end of the narrative, are the words of all the songs and rhymes mentioned plus some useful presentation tips and other information for adults.
All in all, this charmingly illustrated, sturdy book is a lovely opportunity to enjoy a simple story with the very youngest and to have a wonderful sing-along session too.
A great choice to give to new parents.
Buy from Amazon
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Picture Book Allsorts

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Wanda and the Alien to the Rescue
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Rabbit Wanda and her alien friend discover a small, lost creature in the woods one day. After an abortive search for his mummy, they take him home, wash him, feed him and eventually succeed in getting him to bed. Next morning after breakfasting on a custard concoction, the little creature is starting to make more mischief when his mummy arrives on the scene.

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Reunited again, parent and child depart leaving the friends to relax together peacefully at home. O- oh! Who is that knocking on their door? …
Fans of Wanda and her Alien pal will be delighted to know that they are soon to star in a TV series; meanwhile, they can enjoy this, their third, slightly crazy, adventure in book form with its sparkling cover and gentle humour. Just right for an early years story time.
In my experience these stories spark off children’s own creative ideas in the way of picture and model making and message writing. Perhaps this one might result in some music making and you might want to have a few packets of custard powder and bowls ready after sharing the story.
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Meet the Parents
Peter Bently and Sarah Ogilvie
Simon and Schuster pbk
Parents are not there merely to boss their offspring about: they have many much more useful roles too. They make handy mending machines, large handwarmers, building foundations, horses and donkeys. They are great targets for hoses and ketchup, toy hunters, twirlers, tree trunks and much more.

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They are great muddle and mess sorters, have wonderful memories, and are super storytellers, apologisers and comforters. Watch out though, their fingers just love to … TICKLE!
Lively, bright, jocund elaborations of Bently’s engaging rhyming text,
Sara Ogilvie’s hilarious portrayals of family life cannot fail to delight both youngsters and their parents.
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Crayon
Simon Rickerty
Simon and Schuster pbk
In Simon Rickery’s latest witty offering he entertains young (and not so young) readers with some crazy crayons capers. Two blobby characters, a red one with a blue crayon and a blue one with a red crayon wield their implements in turn, keeping to their own territories. But then Red crosses the gully with his mark making. This transgression leads to a verbal battle and worse. The friends cross crayons and before long Red’s blue is snapped in two. Blue makes a peace offering in the form of his red crayon but Red misuses it and turns his friend purple. Enter a purple blobby character. Purple wields the power with purple, yellow, pink, orange, brown and green crayons which, leaving Red all alone, he and Blue use to co-create building blocks. Soon all that’s missing is a roof and what colour is needed for that?

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Time for a friendship to be repaired …
With minimal text and simple forms, Rickerty has fashioned a perfect parable of how a childish dispute develops, flares up and is resolved.
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I totally don’t want to play
Ann Bonwill and Simon Rickerty
Oxford University Press
The bird/hippo friendship of Bella and Hugo is threatened by a third party. Hugo is not happy; his invitation to go skating has been turned down by his best pal, Bella. Bella has found a new companion, Cressida and is off to the playground with her instead. Bella grudgingly invites Hugo to tag along but as he quickly finds out, the real fun does not appear to include him.

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Before long though, it’s Bella’s turn to feel left out. “I’m going home,” she announces huffily. Just in time, Cressida suggests a game that is absolutely perfect for three friends together.
Ann Bonwill’s manner of telling (she uses dialogue throughout) works particularly well for this, the third Hugo and Bella story. Simon Rickerty’s delightful illustrations, executed with simple shapes, black blotchy outlines and bright dayglo colours bring occasional hilarity to the scenes; I particularly like the images of the diminutive Bella endeavouring to push Cressida on the swing. Triangular friendships are often tricky but this author/artist partnership has created a story which demonstrates that with a bit of give and take, it can work.
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Dinosaur Rescue!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow
Prepare yourself for some noisy story sessions with the latest adventure of Penny Dale’s dinosaur troop. Here , they race to the rescue in aid of a large truck stuck across a railway crossing. As the train dashes down the line, along they come in fire engine, ambulance, police car, helicopter and on foot making a glorious cacophony. Then Screech! Screech! Screech! The steam train grinds to a halt just in time and it’s rescue dinosaur teamwork in action to ensure the safety of everything and everyone.

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With crashed truck hitched to Dinotow, team members drive back to base ready for some thoroughly deserved rest and play, and of course, a hearty meal.
Once again, Penny Dale provides a winning formula – dinosaurs and large vehicles this time. A perfect opportunity for chuffing, calling, Nee Naa-ing wooing, choppa chopping, brake screeching and more.
This one would be brilliant to act out either with small world dinosaurs and vehicles or with children themselves, some acting as dinosaurs, others a chuffing train, rushing rescue trucks, racing police car, hovering, swooping helicopter or lifting, brrming tow truck.. And, as well as vocal accompaniment, audiences could suggest percussion instruments or other items to create the various sounds.
If all that isn’t enough, or you just want to quieten things down a little, then turn to the end papers for some visual delight: at the front is the dinosaur rescue team at the ready, wonderfully portrayed in bright colours and at the back are the rescue vehicles.
The text bursts with energy, not to mention onomatopoeia. Yes we adults might argue with the actions of the dinosaurs staying right by their crashed truck as the train charges ever closer, but I’m sure it will be another resounding hit with its target audience of under fives.
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Who’s in the Tree that Shouldn’t Be?
Craig Shuttlewood
Templar Publishing
To discover the answer to the title question follow the instruction on the first page and then lift the flap opposite to reveal a perplexed-looking penguin on a branch. In the tree too are more animals that also have something so say and add to the rhyme.
Readers can find the identity of a whole host of other out-of-place creatures – in the long grass, in the air, in the desert, in the ocean, in the ice and snow, in space even;

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then, turn to the final spread and see who is out of place there.
Quirky creatures, their somewhat offbeat comments and mixed media, slightly crazy illustrations by artist Craig Shuttlewood are the key ingredients of this interactive book. It’s a quality production too.
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What are you playing at?
Marie-Sabine Roger and Anne Sol
Alanna Books
I love the provocative style of this picture book that challenges gender stereotypes and powerfully advocates a ‘You can be anything/do anything’ mode of thinking and being. The use of photographs of children, for example a girl engaged in domestic play, opposite such thought-provoking assertions as ‘boys don’t play kitchens’ written large on a page that folds out to reveal a male chef, acts as a superb counter to the gender biased statements. Other flaps reveal men dancing, feeding a baby, skipping and crying and women playing soccer,

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driving cars, working as boat builders and flying rockets.
Share this with a group of infants; it will assuredly get them thinking and arguing.
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Find and buy from your local bookseller: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Finally, here is a handful of books I’ve previously reviewed which are now out in paperback:

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How amazing that Mike Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s brilliant We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Walker Books) is celebrating its 25th anniversary – congratulations!
Assuredly it’s a book that should be in every young child’s library. How about buying a copy to give on International Book Giving Day which is coming up soon.

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