Can You Find 12 Busy Bees? / Ten Little Aliens

Can You Find 12 Busy Bees?
Jordon Winch and Patrick Shirvington
New Frontier Publishing

Who wouldn’t want to accept Jordon Winch’s invitation to enter the garden Patrick Shirvington so beautifully depicts on the opening spread, and join in the search for the abundance of wildlife residing therein. I for one couldn’t wait to go through the gate and seek out the lizard basking in the sun.

As we wander, lots of different birds introduce themselves starting with ‘2 patient powerful owl chicks’ nestling in a tall old tree …

as well as ‘3 crafty kookaburras, ‘6 merry magpies’ – these are poking around on the lawn, ‘7 flighty fairy-wrens, (in the bushes), ‘8 carefree cockatoos’ and ’10 rowdy rainbow lorikeets’ sipping nectar. Yes, some of these birds may be unfamiliar to young readers outside Australia but discovering new things is part of the pleasure.

Lolling around in the pond are ‘4 fat frogs’ to find; and there are two different kinds of butterflies making up the 5 fluttering through the flowers. We’re not told what kind they are, nor the identity of the 9 green grubs chomping through the foliage, though I hope few youngsters will fail to name the 11 lovely ladybirds’

or the most vital for us all, the ’12 buzzy bees’ of the title, as they forage for food in the flowers.

All these creatures, and readers too will endorse the final ‘We love our garden. We hope it will be there forever.’ And it definitely acts as reminder to make our own gardens wildlife friendly.

Patrick Shirvington’s love of the natural world shines through in his beautiful watercolour scenes that accompany the simple descriptive narrative.

Ten Little Aliens
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books

Aliens of all shapes and hues star in this counting down space adventure wherein the strange beings far from home search for a friendly place to stay.

Seemingly though, their numbers diminish as one receives a FIZZ! from a comet’s tail, another is SPLOOFed by Nova-berries, a Mega-Robot’s honking blasts the next, and a fiery crater fires out bubbling lava at a pink one.
Now we’re down to six and they’re caught in a sudden snowy blizzard. So it goes on with a SNIFF!, a BOING!,

a PARP!, a cry for HELP! as the sat-nav gives up the ghost.

Then, hurrah! Up steps the one remaining – a female alien – with a rescue operation to perform.

Will they ever find a hospitable planet on which to land their space ship? What do you think?

Rhyming fun Brownlow and Rickerty style always hits the spot with little ones and this story on an ever popular topic, with its sprinkling of alliteration is sure to please too.

Meet the Penguins

Meet the Penguins
Mike Brownlow
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

The penguin duo are eager to play; but their ‘Please can we play?’ overtures are turned down by in turn an elephant intent on riding his bike; a fox in a ball pool;

a paint daubing hippo; a giraffe building with blocks, a tortoise out riding, a pair of noughts and crosses players, a puzzling primate, a racing rabbit

and a cat fishing, each of which proffers so s/he thinks a pertinent reason why not – well all except the cat and she merely gives an unequivocal ‘No’.

As two despondent penguins sit pondering on their next move, they’re approached by a little bear asking if she can play.

Their loud affirmative response precipitates a truly astonishing display of balancing and juggling as the penguins open their bags and showcase their playful talents aided and abetted by their new playmate.

Pretty soon the three have an audience and guess what they want to do …

With superbly ironic rejoinders from the animals the penguins want to play with, Mike Brownlow’s narrative reminds us how easy it is to push people (or penguins) away and make them feel unwelcome whether or not it’s intentional.

Its vital message about welcoming newcomers and all they have to offer, especially those who might seem different, is timely and pertinent, and this is a great book for opening up discussion.

And of course, youngsters will be unable to stop themselves from joining in with the oft repeated ‘Please can we play’ request.

Frankenbunny / Ten Little Superheroes

Jill Esbaum and Alice Brereton

Youngest of three brothers, Spencer, knows monsters don’t exist until his siblings Leonard and Bertram start talking about the terrible Frankenbunny just to scare their little brother.
It’s relatively easy being brave during the daytime when mum or dad are on hand to reassure him that monsters aren’t real,

but come bedtime it’s much harder to ignore the graphic descriptions of “crusty fangs, ginormous jaws and flashing red eyes”.

Having made it through the night however, Spencer discovers something in his cupboard next morning that enables him to start planning his revenge on his brothers.

And indeed, it’s truly satisfying.
Light and dark are used to effect in this first person narrative that provides just the right frisson of fear without overdoing it; and shows youngsters it is possible to overcome your own fears in the end.

Ten Little Superheroes
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books

Riotous play superhero style begins when in mid flight, the Ten Little Super-Kids spy the League of Bad Guys plotting in their lair.

And then it’s a case of action stations, as they set about saving the city from the dastardly plotters.

Full of pows, vrooms, bishing, bashing, boshing, splats, zaps and more: can those Super-Kids overcome the very tricky Monstro’s Gang and thwart their villainous attack on Metro Hall? If so they’ll have to contend with cyclonic firing, sticky resin and Kraken’s flailing tentacles, not to mention a sonic boom and a hypnotic yogini.

I suggest a few practice run-throughs before reading this aloud to a group of small super-hero enthusiasts; it’s pretty fast paced and needs lots of ‘wellie’ to deliver the onomatopoeia-packed action.

However thereafter time will be needed to explore the kaleidoscopically coloured scenes of mischief and mayhem.

I’ve signed the charter  

Warthog / Ten Little Monsters

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Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This rhyming tale of young warthog’s wanderings incorporates counting to ten as our forgetful little chap savours a scoop of honey – one (that’s breakfast taken care of) encountering two angry bees in so doing; his wanders then take him to a pool wherein he splashes, finds three pebbles

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which are actually …

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Off goes warthog swishing through the long grass wherein he finds five flowers behind which flutter six butterflies. By now our brave little wanderer is far from home and his mum – a little hungry perhaps? But those seven berries he spies have all been claimed by hungry birds – can you see which of the eight is going without a meal?

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Enjoying the birds’ song, warthog keeps on wandering quite oblivious to the fact it’s now sundown; he’s more interested in the nine monkeys and ten footprints which of course our curious fellow cannot resist following.
No they don’t lead him back home – not quite, although it’s not long before there IS one little warthog hot -footing it right back where he came from and he arrives …

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If you’re wondering why he returned so suddenly and so hastily, then turn back to the first spread and look carefully. And then get hold of this wonderfully interactive, playful counting book and see the rest of the action. Observant youngsters will most likely notice the wily watcher on some of the other spreads as you enjoy the story together.

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Ten Little Monsters
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
We’ve had pirates, princesses and dinosaurs; now it’s the turn of monsters to invade the pages of Brownlow and Rickerty’s latest counting extravaganza.
It’s night time but that’s the time for little monsters to wake up and go about their spooking of a castle and its environs. (Not sure why they’ve chosen now to publish a book wherein the characters go trick or treating but never mind): off go the ten on their spooking way until that werewolf lets out his howl …

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and thus begins the one by one decrease in their numbers as those would-be scarifiers encounter a headless knight, a ravenous raven, a large arachnid …

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a raucous, zapping robot, a zombie gang …

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some skeletons (hilarious demolition details on this spread), cackling witches, a grotesque green ghost and then we’re down to just one terrified monster and he alone must summon up all his courage to open the door and …
Well, that would be telling.
So many counting opportunities, so many story telling opportunities, so many visual jokes but most important of all – so much romping, stomping fun.

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Dinosaurs, Numbers and a Picnic

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Ten Little Dinosaurs
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
Whether or not there were snails, frogs, bats, spiders, crayfish, crabs, hedgehogs, bees and the like in the time dinosaurs roamed the earth matters not: Simon Rickerty has chosen to scatter them liberally throughout the landscapes of this rhyming romp. Essentially it’s a countdown from when there are ‘Ten little dinosaurs, hatching from their eggs,/Blinking in the sunshine, stretching out their legs.’ These ten newly hatched creatures decide to take advantage of the fact their mother is fast asleep and off they go, in single file, to explore the wide world. Did I say ten? Stomp! That was Diplodocus stepping on one of their number. And so the adventure continues as they take in the surrounding aromas – Slurrrp!; – another gone; peep into a cavern, wander across the volcanic plains, take a dip in the bubbling springs, do a bit of scrumping ,

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polish up their poo-avoiding plodding, try their hand or rather paws, at mountain climbing –  and then they’re down to just one.

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Seemingly he’s about to meet his doom too. But…
PHEW! It’s neither a raptor, nor a T-Rex, not even a monster. No! It’s their very own mother who’s come in search of her missing offspring and hip-hooray!!, she now has them all together once more safe and sound within her sight – more or less anyway.

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Another winning Brownlow/Rickerty combo: a rollicking-good read, an ever-popular topic and an enjoyable countdown littered with tiny creatures to spot and count in the vividly coloured, comical scenes A certain winner for early years listeners (and counters).

For younger mathematicians is:


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Lulu Loves Numbers
Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is a small board book that features Lulu who, in this story, is with her mum visiting a farm. There they encounter lots of animals and Lulu learns to count from one all the way to …

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With doors to open or a flap to lift on every spread, this is an enjoyable interactive experience for the very youngest who can join in with the animal noises and practice their counting skills along with Lulu in this delightful little book.

Not a counting book as such but packed full of opportunities for mathematical exploration is

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Teddy Picnic
Georgie Birkett
Andersen Press
The toys from Teddy Bedtime return for a picnic expedition and we join them as they make their final preparations before setting off. They walk and skip into the woods where they have fun bubble blowing, hiding and dancing

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before settling down on their rug for some tasty lunch
Then, tummies full, the friends play while hungry birds make the most of the remains of the lunch; but all that rushing around is tiring so it’s a train ride home. Tired but happy the ‘teddies’ settle down for a cosy story-time session on the sofa before bed.

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With its gentle rhyming text, super-cute characters, and fun-filled scenes to focus on, this is ideal for sharing with the very young

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Princesses and a Postman

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Ten Little Princesses
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
Ten little princesses trot past the castle but whither are they bound on their special day? Why, to the ball of course: but will they arrive safely and on time? When one pricks her finger, another bites into a poisoned apple and a third is charmed by a handsome skateboarding prince, we begin to wonder whether any of these damsels will reach their destination. There are piggies and a big bad wolf,

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a frog, a toothy troll

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and much more in this action-packed, bouncy, rhyming romp of a countdown that really invites joining in.
What a wealth of detail there is to talk about, and an abundance of counting opportunities, in the various comical scenes rendered in dazzling colours by Rickerty, who made me chuckle several times at every turn of the page. Brilliant fun (even better than Ten Little Pirates) by a pair that work so well together.
Great fun too is:

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Digby Dog Delivers
Tor Freeman
Macmillan Children’s Books
Digby Dog is a postman and he spends his time delivering the town folks’ mail on his trusty scooter. On this particular day he has all manner of parcels to take to Fred Fox, Ginger Guinea Pig, Annie Ape,

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Professor Perry Pig and Sally Sheep. Those duly delivered, there is just one parcel remaining in his cart and it’s a very special one for a very special person.; but whose house is he heading to? His very own and just in time for a fifth birthday party and a share in Petal Puppy’s birthday tea.
There is so much to look at and share in the wonderfully humorous, action-packed pictures, not only the double spreads of the places Digby delivers to, but also the smaller scenes on his route. In one of the latter we see such things as three apple cores lined up beside a rubbish sack and a rabbit balancing seven scoops of ice-cream on a single cone.

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