Leilong’s Too Long! / Albert Supersize / Rita Wants a Genie

Leilong’s Too Long!
Julia Liu and Bei Lynn
Gecko Press

The endearing brontosaurus Leilong is acting as school bus for Max, Maggie, Mo and their friends, taking care where he puts his massive feet and sometimes pausing to fill up on grass cakes on the way. Despite him always looking out for those he might help 

too many accidents are happening on account of his enormousness and with them, numerous complaints and even fines. Consequently the school has to drop the dino-bus and poor Leilong is devastated. He goes off and hides away. Or so he thinks. Not for long though; perhaps with the help and kindness of his little human friends, there’s a new role for Leilong just waiting to be discovered.
Julia Liu’s text (translated by Helen Wang) and Bei Lynn’s child-like, cartoon style illustrations work in perfect harmony. The details in every spread are a delight – wonderfully expressive and playful. Whether or not you’ve encountered Leilong before, I’m sure he’ll win your heart.

Albert Supersize
Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke
Graffeg

Tortoise, Albert has big dreams – massive ones sometimes like the time he dreamt he came to the aid of roaring dinosaurs threatened by erupting volcanic action (no, not the type Albert is prone to emit from his rear end). On this occasion though, when he’s aroused from dreamland by his minibeast friends, Albert discovers he must come to their aid too: the roof of their flowerpot shelter is damaged and in need of repair.
Drawing upon his dream, slowly and carefully Albert does the necessary, making his friends very happy. 

“You might have BIG dreams, Albert, but you’re just the right size to help us,” a worm comments.
Full of gentle humour, kindness and creatures, this latest Albert episode told in Ian Brown’s dramatic style and with Eoin Clarke’s hilarious illustrations is every bit as entertaining as ever.

If you’ve yet to meet Albert, I recommend you do so; at the back of the book you can even find out about the real Albert that inspired the author to tell these stories.

Rita wants a Genie
Máire Zeph and Mr Ando
Graffeg

Young Rita’s at it again with those big ideas of hers. Now she wants a being that will, unquestioningly, carry out her every command. Uh-oh! Having contemplated all the possibilities that having a genie at her beck and call would bring, she realises that her latest flight of fancy might not be her wisest after all. For isn’t it so that a genie must obey the wishes of whomsoever rubs the lamp where it lives? …
Andrew Whitson aka Mr Ando transports readers along with Rita to a magical eastern land of golden palaces, peacocks, lush fruits and swirling sand in his scenes for this latest story in the series he co-creates with author Máire Zeph. It’s an important learning journey for the small protagonist and another fun fantasy to share with those around Rita’s age.

Esme and the Sabre-Toothed Cub / Rita Wants a Dragon

Esme and the Sabre-Toothed Cub
Simon Philip and Magda Brol
Oxford Children’s Books

Could it be that Esme’s best friend Morris the mammoth has his tusks put slightly out of joint when a little sabre-toothed tiger cub appears in the village and charms all the cave kids by its actions. Despite the adults having shooed it away on several consecutive days, Esme asks the visitor she’s named Seb, “Would you like to be my pet?” However, Seb is far from impressed at receiving one order after another from the little stone age girl who eventually gets the message that the creature has no intention of becoming anyone’s pet.

Morris however, decides that perhaps friendship could be the way to go and of course, Esme is eager to join in their fun and games, albeit from some way off. Then trouble rears its ferocious head.

Can Esme save the day and learn a thing or two as well?

With certain similarities to our 21st century world, Simon Philip’s second story of bossy young Esme and her fellow troglodytes is another humorous read aloud, made even more so by Magda Brol’s highly exuberant scenes of this endearing prehistoric community.

Rita Wants a Dragon
Máire Zepf and Mr Ando
Graffeg

In the fifth of this series starring the small girl with a huge imagination, young Rita is having a bad day. Everything is going wrong and she imagines a large fiery dragon to represent her angry feelings. However, even dragons can’t remain in an angry state all the time – it’s hugely exhausting to roar

and rant, stomp and stamp and breathe fiery flames so it’s as well that they can take flight and find somewhere alone to do some slow breathing to help that rage dissipate and to talk calmly about what has gone wrong. Then anger diffused, it’s time for a snuggly cuddle with a loving grown-up, a mum for example.

With powerful images created by Mr Ando on every spread, Máire Zeph’s tale of Rita’s challenging behaviour offers parents and educators in early years settings an enjoyable starting point for discussions about feelings of anger and how to cope with them.

Supertato The Great Eggscape! / Rita Wants a Fairy Godmother

These two picture books are additions to popular series:thanks to their publishers for sending them for review

Supertato The Great Eggscape!
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

With chocolate and subterfuge at its heart is the latest Supertato episode. Easter is approaching as the story begins. The customers and staff have long since gone from the supermarket when the veggies discover that all the Easter eggs have vanished from the seasonal aisle. Immediately Supertato names his number one suspect: of course this is the work of Evil Pea.
Now, the dastardly character has barricaded himself inside his Easter egg castle.

Pretty quickly Supertato comes up with a plan to break in and liberate the chocolate from the fortress but will his disguise fool pea? Unfortunately not; Pea soon has Supertato held captive, which leaves the veggies to come up with their own rescue plan. What are the chances this one will work or will it be a case of foiled again?

Rita Wants a Fairy Godmother
Máire Zepf and Mr Ando
Graffeg

Getting dressed independently is one of those tasks that young children tend to struggle with and so it is with the endlessly imaginative Rita. In this the fourth book, the little girl entertains the possibilities that having her very own fairy godmother to act as personal dresser might mean. No more of those annoying ‘hurry up’ cries from her mum, no more struggles with sleeves or tussles with trousers. Instead, at the mere twirl of a wand she could wear the world’s most beautiful clothes no matter the occasion.
On the other hand, supposing said fairy godmother gave her inappropriate footwear 

or clothing and even worse, insisted on prettiness at the expense of fun …
Hmm! maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Like their previous books in the series Máire Zepf and Mr Ando’s godmother episode will be enjoyed by preschool children and I suspect adult sharers will have a good giggle over the two final spreads of Rita in action.

Octopants: The Missing Pirate Pants / Rita Wants a Ninja / Little Scoot

Octopants: The Missing Pirate Pants
Suzy Senior and Claire Powell
Little Tiger

There’s definitely a plethora of pants in this new story about Octopants (narrator) and his ocean pals Turtle and Pufferfish. It’s the latter who has lost his favourite pirate pants and to make him feel less glum Octopants organises an undersea search. Having drawn a blank in the usual places in town, the friends brave the wreck and there they come upon a pirate crew with a pirate party in full swing with pants simply everywhere.

But then who should show up unexpectedly out of the blue sporting a funky hat and asking to join the pirate crew …
This is a jaunty rhyming text that flows well, and vibrant illustrations with plenty of humorous details to make little humans laugh, but Suzy Senior’s tale contains a serious message too: appearances can be deceptive so don’t be too hasty to make a judgement. With young children, you really can’t go wrong with a story about underpants.

Rita Wants a Ninja
Máire Zeph and Mr Ando (Andrew Whitson)
Graffeg

Is there no end to Rita’s demands? Seemingly not for now a game of hide-and-seek with her smaller sibling fuels a desire for her very own martial arts expert in the form of a ninja. How wonderful to have someone to instruct her in the art of stealth and invisibility. She’d learn how to control both mind and body as well as those shouts used when on the attack. However invincibility ninja style seemingly comes at a price –

a very big price and one she definitely isn’t prepared to pay after all. So it’s a resounding NO! for a ninja master …
Andrew Whitson’s expansive, action-packed scenes of Rita’s imaginings take readers along with the two children, into verdant Japanese bamboo forests and snowy landscapes wherein lurk fighting ninja clans.

Little Scoot
Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Edson Ikê
Boyds Mills Press

Perseverance no matter how difficult the situation, is key in this vibrantly illustrated American import.
I was itching to tweak the beginning part of the rhyming text but like its little tugboat protagonist, I kept going, and happily it improved. Keeping going and not giving up is the essence of the tale of Little Scoot. Suddenly she receives an alarm call: a large barge is aground on a sandbank and in need of her help. With a gathering storm the tiny tugboat has to force herself forward, pushing through her fears and the splashing, sploshing waves, as she tries her level best to be brave. Eventually, there before her is the stranded Big Barge.
Will the tiny craft succeed in her rescue mission? Even in the most difficult situations, she certainly isn’t a quitter …

Rita Wants a Robot / The Toys’ Christmas

Rita Wants a Robot
Màire Zeph and Mr Ando
Graffeg

Rita is a small girl with a big imagination and a head full of ideas. Her latest is a ‘super-sorting’ robot: something that would tidy up the ginormous messes she creates in her bedroom thus putting paid to mum’s repeated chastisements. There is a stipulation however; said robot mustn’t spoil Rita’s fun by creating hyper tidiness, so he’d need to know when enough was enough or risk her wrath. Of course, said robot would need to be an appreciator of wildlife, as well as never overstepping the mark, for doing so would land Rita in big trouble.

Then there are special considerations at the approach of the festive season: who would want a Christmas saboteur robot, albeit a well-intentioned one? Definitely not Rita: maybe time to have another think about the whole robot-sorting idea …

This is another fun episode in the imagined life of Rita conjured by author Màire Zeph and illustrator Andrew Whitson (Mr Ando) that will be enjoyed by youngsters around the age of the protagonist. This adult reviewer wouldn’t mind a brief visit from Rita’s super-sorting robot to work on my partner’s super messes, although it would need to be kept a close eye on, I suspect.

The Toys’ Christmas
Claire Clément and Geneviève Godbout
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

It’s Christmas Eve but rather than feeling excited, little Noah is very worried and upset: his favourite cuddlesome toy elephant Fanfan is nowhere to be found. Despite his mum’s reassurances that his absence is only temporary, Noah isn’t convinced.

Meanwhile, outside in the snow Fanfan is on his way to an important meeting when he hears a voice asking for help. It’s toy rabbit Mr Long Ears with a bad foot, upset at the possibility of not getting to the meeting on time and of course the kindly elephant offers him a lift and they reach the clearing where the other toys have gathered just in time for the long journey.

Why are they, along with toys from all over the world, out on this chilly night when they could be snuggled up with their children? 

They’re on a special mission to see Santa to tell him what their owners want for Christmas, but they also need to make sure they get back home in time for the big day.. What will Noah discover when he wakes on Christmas morning?

An unusual story illustrated in soft focus pastel by Geneviève Godbout whose art here has an olde-worlde charm.

Rita Wants a Witch

Rita Wants a Witch
Máire Zepf and Mr Ando
Graffeg

Rita is a small girl with a very big imagination and she uses it to ponder the possibilities of having a witch in the family. The witch she desires is of the wild sort and thus, instead of sending her off to bed she’d allow the child to whizz around all night on a broomstick; no household chores would be required, only her assistance with spell brewing. But said witch would never ever do mean spells, only ones like this –

she’d never give her bad dreams or scare off her pals.

What though if on the other hand, this witch turned out to be inept at tending to a poorly Rita, a meanie who wanted her apprentice to follow her unpleasant example, and whose cooking was decidedly unappetising.

There’s absolutely no knowing what might transpire if such a witch came into Rita’s life.

Better perhaps to have another think, toss out those notions of magic potions and settle for something much safer …

In addition to being a fun book for sharing with foundation stage children around Halloween time, this is a story with a maternal theme that shows just how much mums really do for their little ones. The vividness of Rita’s imagination that emerges in Máire Zepf’s first person narrative is mirrored in Mr Ando, aka Andrew Whitson’s humorous, sometimes mock scary scenes of witchy prospects for which he uses suitably bright garish hues.