Mabel and Sam at Home

Mabel and Sam at Home
Linda Urban and Hadley Hooper
Chronicle Books

It’s moving day for Mabel and Sam and things look pretty chaotic from the viewpoint of the siblings.

To keep out of the way of the grown-ups they embark on a series of adventures related in three chapters. The first is ‘On the High Seas’ and here Captain Mabel and First Mate Sam set out in the good ship Handle With Care. Bossy sis. gives the orders as they go sailing on the high seas, a dangerous voyage full of pirates, whales and sea serpents

until they spy some friendly landlubbers, after which it’s “All ashore” for some tasty pizza.
‘At the Museum’ has curator Mabel showing Sam new ways of looking at old familiar things: the dialogue here is especially wonderful with Mabel “Behold“ing at every opportunity as she introduces the various artefacts to her brother.

Finally, after supper the two become astronauts blasting through space heading for Planet Perfecto and for this they need to be especially bold, “Space Bold” Astronaut Mabel declares, “Space Bold is bigger, because space is bigger.

Linda Urban’s entire text is a delight – funny, full of charm, reassuring and cleverly structured so as to embrace the kind of things that cause young children moving day anxieties; and before the end, the children are feeling upbeat about the move with Mabel concluding that their ‘new planet was surprisingly homey’.
Hadley Hooper’s illustrations (created with printmaking techniques and Photoshop) are, like the siblings’ adventures, wonderfully imagined, both in their rendering of the children’s adventures and the portrayal of the somewhat frazzled parents at the end of the book.
Just right for sharing with a child or children moving home.

Sleep Well Siba & Saba / The Frog in the Well

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn
Lantana Publishing
Sisters, Siba and Saba are inveterate losers of things, be it sweaters – seven of them; silver sandals ‘on sandy beaches at Ssese islands’ ; even their bedroom slippers go missing.
Strangely though, they never manage to lose one another; and when their papa had sung them to off sleep, “Sula bulungi, Siba and Saba,”, the sisters would find their lost possessions in their dreams.

One night though, their dreams are of things not lost – a silver shilling for Siba and a ‘stiffly starched school uniform’ for Saba.

Sisters as close as these two share everything, so when they wake from their slumbers, Siba and Saba share their dreamtime sorties. The following day two very unexpected things happen: I expect you can guess what they are: rather than be a story-spoiler though I’ll just say that from that day forward, those sisters always set their sights firmly on the future and what it might bring …

Such eloquence of words and pictures; this simply sparkles with brilliance.
Isdahl’s sibilant text combines with stunningly beautiful scenes of the sisters both inside and outdoors in the African landscapes.

The Frog in the Well
Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
An oldie but goodie: I think I may somewhere have a very old edition of this enchanting book from way back when I used to visit the USA fairly frequently. Now it’s been given a new lease of life by the New York Review. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it centres on a well-residing frog who leads a contented life thinking his well is the whole world; “The world is nothing but moss-covered rocks … with a pool of water at the bottom.” is what he tells himself. But then the well-water dries up and the frog is forced to emerge into “the end of the world”

Deciding to take a look around, he discovers all kinds of ‘end-of-the-world’ creatures, learns a few things and eventually becomes a very wise, wide world-loving frog ready to take the longest leap he’s ever made …

For, “A foolish frog can be happy all alone at the bottom of a well, but a clever frog can be much happier out here.”
With its supremely brilliant visual perspectives and thought-provoking words, this still has much to offer 21st century readers and listeners, who will bring to the story an entirely different perspective from that of audiences when it was published in 1958.
More classic Duvoisin comes in:

The House of Four Seasons
Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
A wonderful celebration of colour, the seasons and endeavour: and built into this uplifting story are lessons on colour mixing, and a demonstration of how to create a colour wheel.
Both books offer a great opportunity to discover or re-discover some vintage gems from over 60 years ago.

I’ve signed the charter  

This is Not a Cat! / Later, Gator!

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This is NOT a Cat!
David Larochelle and Mike Wohnoutka
Sterling Children’s Books
Using only the words from the title, Larochelle has created a book that is absolutely perfect for beginning readers and it’s lots of fun.
We join three little mice as they arrive at school; three little mice each with a chunk of cheese for lunch. Their first lesson is already displayed as they sit down already looking more than a tad bored …

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Now this is an old fashioned school with transmission style teaching – desks facing front so one can perhaps excuse the lack of a security system (but that’s getting ahead of the action). One pupil at least is paying attention as the teacher continues: “This is not a cat.” the assumption being he’s writing notes on the lesson; the other two are already distracted and playing around. No one notices what’s already appearing outside the window, not even the grinning goldfish.
This is not a cat.” … “This is not a cat.” continues the teacher oblivious to the fact that a certain intruder is on the verge of entering …

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Suddenly the whole atmosphere in the room changes as the presence of the visitor is noticed, first by the teacher and then as realisation dawns …

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The pupils flee leaving the intruder to enjoy the spoils left behind, but just who IS that greedy guzzler.
Clever as the text is and it’s undoubtedly so, without the illustrations the book wouldn’t be anything like as funny as it is. Wohnoutka’s cartoon style scenes are full of comic detail: the changing expressions of the goldfish, the antics of the pupils – note the cleverly aimed paper aeroplane, the cheesy shapes chart to mention a few; and of course, there’s the grand finale.
Also fun for those in the early stages of reading is:

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Later, Gator!
Erik Brooks
Sterling Children’s Books
It’s hard moving to a new home especially having to say farewell to all your friends. That’s just what young Gator discovers having moved to a distant neighbourhood with his parents where there isn’t a soul he knows. He decides to write to his old friends telling them how he misses them and eventually back come some letters. Yes, his pals are missing him too but their communications are also encouraging …

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And made him feel a little bit bolder, bold enough to start making a whole new set of friends …

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The text is minimal but the amusing illustrations speak volumes.

Lemur Losing & A Ghost Called Dog

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How to Lose a Lemur
Frann Preston-Gannon
Pavilion Books
“Everyone knows that once a lemur takes a fancy to you there is not much that can be done about it.” Thus begins a delightful child narrated take of what happens when one does just that – to the small boy himself. As our narrator takes a stroll in the park one sunny morning he notices, but does his level best to ignore, the lemur that’s in hot pursuit.

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The lad tries all kinds of escape ruses such as tree climbing and cycling … but nothing seems to work, not even giving them stern looks.
In desperation the boy buys a train ticket but guess what joins him. He takes to the air; but those pesky animals seem to have all eventualities covered, even camel riding …
and trekking through blizzards. Surely the latter will see them off but no.

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Suddenly though, the creatures seem to have gone to ground; the boy is far from home though and has no idea how to get back. Perhaps … well, just perhaps: I’ll say no more and leave it to readers to imagine what happens thereafter
Sheer delight from cover to cover is this board book with its collage style illustrations from rising star, Frann Preston-Gannon whose amusing story is certain to please the very youngest listeners as well as those adults who share it with them.

For older readers:

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A Ghost Called Dog
Gavin Neale
2QT
A family has just moved into a new house. Dad is a writer, working at home and under pressure with a deadline looming, so much of the task of settling in and organizing things is left to Mum, although she has to go to work as well. They have two children: Abby and her competitive, soccer-mad brother, Chris. When wildly imaginative Abby says she sees a rabbit in the shed this is rubbished by Chris; but then suddenly, he starts feeling ice-cold fur rubbing against his skin.
Moreover, there are two mysterious old women: stern, goat-keeping Nora and chatty Daphne, who live in a cottage close by and are showing a great deal of interest in the children. And what is all the talk of potential witches, spirit familiars and warlocks?
So begins a story full of intrigue and danger involving a disappearance (the children’s mother), challenges and dark forces.
Gavin Neale clearly knows something of the interests, or rather obsessions of primary school children, and his story may well hit the mark with readers who like stories with a mix of fantasy and reality, challenge and problem solving.

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