Bears Don’t Wear Shoes

Bears Don’t Wear Shoes
Sharon Davey
New Frontier Publishing

Not only have Suzy and her family just moved house, they’re in a new country too. Inevitably there’s a lot of unpacking and locating things in various rooms to keep them busy. Watching all the adults frantically working, Suzy is desperate for someone to play with, but nobody has any time for her.
The lonely little girl decides to look elsewhere and so she puts up a sign on her back gate and waits… and waits all day.

Nobody comes.

The following morning one applicant shows up so she takes him inside and proceeds to interview him. Mr Bear fits all the criteria

until having dressed him up in Dad’s bermuda shorts, Grandad’s fishing hat, Grandma’s bra, a woolly scarf and armbands, Suzy hands him a pair of shoes. Uh-oh!

Bear voices his aversion to shoe wearing in no uncertain terms. Try as she might Suzy meets with a flat refusal when it comes to footwear.

Now she has a dilemma. Her applicant is suitable in all respects except this one. What should she do? What would you do?

Sharon Davey’s book ticks all the boxes when it comes to a book to share with young children: an engaging story with themes of friendship and problem solving and splendidly expressive, funny illustrations. Each spread has a wealth of visual jokes to make readers and listeners giggle, even the contrasting end papers offer plenty to enjoy and talk about.

Coming to England

Coming to England
Floella Benjamin and Diane Ewen
Macmillan Children’s Books

In a colourful autobiographical picture book story of her own life and that of her family, Floella Benjamin celebrates the Windrush Generation, many of whom have been so badly treated as a consequence of our government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy.

It’s a beautifully written and illustrated account of the move from her childhood home in Trinidad

to England, undertaken first by her Dardie and then a year later by her Marmie and two siblings; then finally Floella and her remaining two brothers.

This new version will surely open the eyes of young children to long voyages undertaken during the middle of the twentieth century, by many, many families from Caribbean Islands who came to England. Certainly it was a shock in so many ways, not least being the cold and greyness in stark contrast to the vibrancy and warmth of Trinidad.

It still hurts to read of the treatment she and her brothers and sisters initially received from other children when they started at school in London;

but the book ends on a happy upbeat note with Floella receiving recognition for all the incredible work she has done for children.

Apart from one or two scenes of England, Diane Ewen’s mixed media illustrations are aglow with rich colours that really make the images come to life on the page.

The way to overcome adversity is through courage and determination: Baroness Floella’s life is an inspiring example of this, and it’s fantastic to see a version of her life story for a younger audience than her earlier 2016 memoir.

All KS1 classrooms need this special book.

Afraid of the Dark / Noah and the Starbird

Here are two picture books  about dealing with difficult situations – thanks Little Tiger for sending these warm-hearted stories

Afraid of the Dark
Sarah Shaffi, Isabel Otter and Lucy Farfort

Moving to a new home is often scary and so it is for the little girl, Amy, who does so with her Dad and dog, Pickle in this story.
Dad is very positive about the move, but not so Amy and Pickle; it just doesn’t feel like home. Her bedroom seems full of strange sounds and shadowy creatures waiting to leap. A night’s sleep might have sent the monsters packing but still that queasy feeling remains.

A visit to the library helps a little,

especially when the kind librarian finds just the right book to transport Amy to a faraway land of adventure when her  dad reads it to her that night. But once he’s gone from her bedroom, back come those monsters.

Next morning seems a little brighter. Children outside wave and invite Amy to play with them in their den. It looks a bit dark inside, but Pickle is willing to go inside so she follows and lo and behold inside a wonderful warm welcome awaits thanks to Sofia and Bilal.

Could this be the beginning of the banishment of those scary monsters. Can Amy send the lurking shadows packing once and for all? …

Sensitively told, this story, demonstrates beautifully how it always takes time to adjust to new situations; and how love and friendship can make all the difference when it comes to coping with first experience fear. Lucy Farfort captures Amy’s fearful feelings perfectly in her illustrations, as well as her dad’s concern and warmth, and the wonderful kindness of the children who welcome her.

Noah and the Starbird
Barry Timms and Faye Hsu

Noah’s dad is ill and has gone to hospital, so Noah is staying with his kind, reassuring, Granny. As they unpack Noah’s things together, the boy notices a lamp inside which is a bird.
Granny tells him it belonged to her grandma and at bedtime Granny suggests to Noah that the bird might have magical powers.

As the boy lies wide awake in bed worrying about his dad, he’s startled by a sound. It’s the bird from the lamp. She introduces herself as Starbird, promising that his father is safe. She sings a lullaby, pulls out one of her tail feathers and gives it to Noah who eventually falls asleep.

The following morning, on hearing what happened Granny tells Noah he has a special magical friend but even she cannot hasten the process of his Daddy getting well. Instead Starbird provides a listening ear again that night before Noak goes to sleep.
Next day the news from the hospital isn’t what Noah hopes, but with some special strength from the magic feather, he and Granny create a collage bird to keep up their spirits.

Can Starbird use her magical powers to help Noah’s Daddy get well again?

Kindness, courage and friendship shine forth from this gentle story: I think right now, the entire world could do with a feather like the one therein.

Where’s Home, Daddy Bear?

Where’s Home, Daddy Bear?
Nicola Byrne
Walker Books

Evie Bear and her Dad are moving home and Evie feels full of doubts – ‘heavy’ in fact. “How will I make new friends?” she wants to know. She doesn’t understand why they need to move at all but eventually everything is loaded and it’s time to say goodbye to their city life and set off into the unknown.

As they drive further from everything familiar Evie’s worries continue. “Dad, what if I don’t like my new home?” she asks.
Where am I from now?” Evie wonders aloud when they stop for blueberry pancakes.

All the way Dad does his best to reassure the little bear with carefully considered words of comfort and activities to distract her from her worries.

When they stop for the night, tucked up together in a hammock they continue their discussion about home

and Dad tells his little Bear that he considers home is more about feelings and not really things at all.

After what seems like a very long drive next day, father and daughter finally reach their new abode

and as they start to unpack Evie comes to her own conclusion about what home means for her: no matter where they live, so long as her dad is with her, she will always feel at home.

Rich in detail both domestic and of the natural world, Nicola Byrne’s illustrations have plenty to pore over and enjoy, not least being the two tiny mice that move house along with the bears and appear in several scenes along the way with their suitcase. On the penultimate picture attentive readers will see them moving into a hole in the skirting board, a scene that also shows The Great Dragon Bake Off among Evie’s books.

The expressions on the bears’ faces say much about the loving bond between father and Evie and also about the emotional upheaval involved in their move.

Why this is happening, especially as their new home appears to be in the middle of nowhere, is left for audiences to ponder upon and draw their own conclusions as is the question of what has happened to Mother Bear; but then, gaps for the reader to fill are part and parcel of a good picture book.

When We Go Camping/ Skyfishing


Who is the narrator of this lively celebration of family camping? Could it be one of the children? A parent? Or perhaps, the eponymous dog that gets into each and every scene? I doubt it’s one of the grandparents; all they seem to do is sit around or participate in some form of spectator sport, with the odd pause for a spot of insect swatting on occasion.
Meanwhile, other family members make friends, play, cook, fish, swim, shiver thereafter: beg your pardon Gramps: there you are boiling up the billy can for a warm-up drink for the chilly swimmers.

Naturally taking a pee involves a bit of inconvenience and perhaps it might be advisable to take a clothes peg along.

Perhaps the highlight of the day is a spot of ‘Hummetty strummetty squeak-io’ singing around the fire before finally repairing to the tent for some dream-filled slumbers.
Sally Sutton’s rhythmic, rhyming narrative is irresistible, especially so those playful refrains that accompany every scenario so beautifully portrayed in Cat Chapman’s watercolours: there’s a ‘Smacketty tappetty bopp-io‘; a ‘Zippetty zappetty flopp-io’ and a ‘Snuffletty wuffletty roar-io’ to name a few: I’ll leave readers to guess what actions they orchestrate.
My memories of camping are of endeavouring to bash pegs into sloping, rock-hard ground, lumpy porridge and noisy sleep-intruding voices in the night. This book in contrast makes the whole experience – well maybe not the loo visits or the odd trip-up – a pleasure, full of simple, fun-filled delight.

Skyfishing
Gideon Sterer and Poly Bernatene
Abrams Books for Young Readers
The young girl narrator’s grandfather loves to fish; so when he moves from his rural idyll to live in the big city with his family, he greatly misses his passion. The child is determined to find a way to engage him, but through autumn and winter, nothing catches his interest.
Come spring, the girl has an inspiration: she initiates a game of ‘let’s pretend’ fishing over the balcony edge and …

The possibilities escalate until they cast their lines deep into the rumbling tumbling ‘ocean’ below: an ocean full of wonderful adventures to last for months and months …

As the narrative unfolds, Bernatene’s vibrant, whimsical paintings show the chaotic city transformed into an ocean teeming with amazing sea creatures.
A warm-hearted story of the special relationship between the young and old, and the power of the imagination.

I’ve signed the charter