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.

Leaping Lola

Leaping Lola
Tracey Hawkins and Anil Tortop
New Frontier Publishing

Young Lola the Jersey cow has a penchant for dancing and is energetically practising her steps for the ball to be held that evening in the barn. But then comes information from her mother that entirely deflates Lola: ‘It’s the Black and White Ball’ so a brown cow such as she won’t be welcome.

Having heard her tale of woe, Pearl the pig offers to disguise her friend.

Suitably attired that evening, Lola is admitted to the ball and she’s immediately swept along by the beat of the music as she swoops and slides across the floor, then kicking up her heels she wows the crowd by ‘swirling and twirling her large derrière.’

Then disaster strikes as Lola mistimes her landing and slithers on her stomach through the Friesians

and straight into a tower of milk churns. Chaos ensues as she’s washed clean of her muddy disguise and cries of ‘imposter’ issue from the frightened onlookers. Is that the end for Lola?

Happily not for then up steps the prize-winning bull who urges her to dance no matter what.

And so she does. Led by Lola in a joyful romping, stomping line, all the cows dance the night away.

With plenty of drama, Tracey Hawkins’ lively rhyming text complemented by Anil Tortop’s splendidly expressive illustrations make for a smashing read aloud to share with youngsters who will delight in the spirited mooover, Lola.

The book has much to say about the importance of inclusivity and might well be a starting point for a discussion on the topic of insiders and outsiders.

Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril & Eco Rangers: Microbat Mayhem

Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril
Eco Rangers: Microbat Mayhem

Candice Lemon-Scott, illustrated by Aśka
New Frontier Publishing

Seaside dwellers, best friends, Ebony and Jay have a passion for wildlife welfare.

In the first story, the two come upon a half-buried oil drum on the beach; then more alarmingly deposits of thick black sludge and an injured pelican covered in the stuff.

Ebony names the bird Poseidon and together they take it to the wildlife hospital at the conservation centre. There they learn that the black sludge on the pelican is in fact oil.

In addition to assisting with the recovery of Poseidon, the children are anxious to find out what caused the oil leak. Excited to have been called ‘real Eco Rangers’ by the vet at the hospital and fired by Doctor Bat’s comment about the possibility of the oil having come from the cruise ship that has become an all too frequent visitor to the town’s harbour, the children are determined to discover the source of the oil contaminating the waters.

It’s when they turn detective that things really start to hot up, especially when they incur the wrath of the cruise ship manager.

Wildlife lover, Candice Lemon-Scott’s story moves along at a rapid pace sweeping readers along in its action and the children’s enthusiasm and curiosity.

So too does the second story that begins with the friends making use of the Super World Theme Park passes given to them by the docs. as a thank you for their sterling work in the first book.

Needless to say being Ebony, the girl ignores a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign they come upon and the two discover a pair of tiny baby bats in the rubble surrounding a disused ride. Having rescued the little creatures, the Eco Rangers take them to the conservation centre to Doctor Bat and Doctor Tan.

Later on, convinced that there is an entire bat colony in the condemned Wild Jungle ride, the two children head back to the theme park where they discover that indeed there is are more than one hundred bats in the ride’s cave. Thus begins operation ‘save the bat colony’.

Things are not straightforward though. When Ebony and Jay are at the hardware store buying nails to complete the bat boxes they’re building, they see Ms Pitts, manager of the theme park with a security guard. The conversation they overhear sets alarm bells start ringing. It sounds as though Miss Pitts isn’t to be trusted over her promise of a three week hold-off before the old ride is demolished and with it the entire bat colony.

As the deadline draws ever closer, it’s up to the Eco Rangers to get the bats to safety. No pressure then!

With the huge focus on caring for our precious environment, these stories may well help fuel more youngsters to get actively involved in wildlife causes.

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night / Grizzly Boy

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night
Mark Carthew and Simon Prescott
New Frontier Publishing

On a wild windy night, as Marigold snuggles under her blanket, the lights go out and frightened by all the shadowy shapes in her room, she gathers up her blanket, pillow and teddy and hides under the bed.

As she cowers in the darkness there’s a rat-a-tat at her window and she sees her neighbour Marvin Mouse. Marvin is frightened by the wind and also wants to hide.

Marigold invites him in to share her safe place and the two take comfort in each other’s company but not for long.

Soon there comes another knock: it’s Marvin’s grandparents out hunting for their missing poodle. They’ve brought some tasty treats to share

but then comes a howling, a scratch-scratching and a growling outside. Now who or what might that be?
Young listeners will likely anticipate what Marigold finds when she opens to door yet again …

Mark Carthew’s rhyming text bounces along nicely as he creates a mock-scary, ultimately feel good tale of a stormy night.
Simon Prescott adds tension and additional frissons of fear to the mix helping to conjure up the feelings of both the alarm and relief felt by the two small mice.

Grizzly Boy
Barbara Davis-Pyles and Tracy Subisak
Little Bigfoot

Theo wakes up one morning and decides to be a grizzly bear, a very wild and growly one that needs to use the bedpost as a bottom scratcher and doesn’t wear underwear (wait for the giggles) or shoes.

Undaunted, his mum replaces his usual favourite breakfast cereal with fruit and veggies and eventually, with clever use of a poster taped to his bedroom door, manages to pack him off to school.

There, an ursine Theo creates havoc in the classroom and it’s a rather careworn boy who greets his mum back home.

Suddenly however, there’s a turnaround: mum has an attack of the grizzlies and thereafter a compromise is struck as she shows it’s fine to have some wild and free experiences, but in the right place at the right time.

Illustrator Tracy Subisak successfully alternates the two sides of Theo as boy and bear bringing out his changing emotions throughout. With speech bubbles adding to the impact of the author’s storyline, this is a book to spark off discussion about feelings.

Emily Green’s Garden / Hodge Podge Lodge

Emily Green’s Garden
Penny Harrison and Megan Forward
New Frontier Publishing

Emily Green’s house is perfectly lovely, so too is her busy bustling street. It’s the epitome of tidiness; likewise her house.
Emily however is tired of all this; she longs for opportunities to be playful, creative and messy.
One day she discovers a small green shoot poking up between the paving stones and this sparks an enthusiasm for gardening.

At first her parents are happy to allow her fill the house with plants; but little by little her wildness increases and eventually they decide enough is enough.

The garden must move outdoors and so it does …

The transformation is one that pleases not only her mum and dad but everyone in the neighbourhood too.

Emily’s growing passion shines forth from Penny Harrison’s telling, and from Megan Forward’s cover picture and her increasingly horticultural, watercolour spreads

Hodge Podge Lodge
Priscilla Lamont
New Frontier Publishing

In Hodge Podge Lodge live the Pigwigs, a family of very messy pigs. Their consumer life style is such that they accumulate an excess of unnecessary things and inevitably, the packaging that comes with it.

One very windy morning, a strong gust distributes all their rubbish far and wide. The consequences are a disaster for all their neighbours who suffer adversely in one way or another.

So disgusted are they that a meeting is called after which the animals collect up all the scattered rubbish and take it back to the Pigwigs residence.

Fortunately, Little Miss Pigwig decides to put project re-use into action and the result is something that pleases everyone. Moreover, the Pigwigs become reformed characters who think carefully about how they dispose of everything they no longer require.

Priscilla Lamont’s story, an unashamed swipe at our excessive consumerism and the throw away society, is a stark reminder of the importance of re-using, recycling and caring for the environment.

What Should a Horse Say? / Business Pig

What Should a Horse Say?
Fleur McDonald and Annie White
New Frontier Publishing

Farmer Rochelle has a cow that says ‘moo moo’, a sheep that says ‘baa baa’, a chicken that says ‘chick chick’ and a horse that says, err… ‘chick chick’!
It’s not until she receives a visit from Farmer Hayden who brings a box of six baby ‘chick, chick chick’ -ing baby chicks however, that she questions the sound her horse makes.

Surprisingly Farmer Hayden isn’t sure and none of her other friends can help either, although one does have a cockatoo that says, ‘Can I have more chocolate? Squark!’ Eventually they send for Dr Swan the vet.

Can his investigations offer a solution?

Young children will delight in being in the know throughout the story and relish the silliness of the entire tale. Equally they’ll love the opportunity to make a lot of farmyard sounds as they join in with Fleur McDonald’s telling and enjoy Annie White’s amusing rural watercolours.

Business Pig
Andrea Zuill
Sterling

When Jelly Bean the sow gives birth to five piglets, one stands out from all the others. Given the name Jasper by the animal sanctuary workers, this piglet eschews playing in the mud and rooting for grubs and acorns and quickly becomes a firm favourite at the sanctuary. So much so he’s given his own special space.
There he sets about becoming a business pig, helping with the bookkeeping, holding meetings, producing endless charts and more, to the annoyance of some of his fellow residents. Even worse, he can’t seem to interest anybody in giving him a loving home.

Nevertheless, Jasper is determined and proactive and forms a business marketing plan to get himself adopted; after all he is a
‘gen-u-ine Business Pig’ as one of the workers said at the outset.

It’s not long before his efforts begin to pay off; could it be that the perfect home is in sight …

This playful tale with its themes of determination and being true to yourself, successfully mixes humour and moments of sheer heart-warming charm, both of which are brought out beautifully in Andrea Zuill’s splendidly expressive illustrations.

Eva’s Imagination

Eva’s Imagination
Wenda Shurety and Karen Erasmus
New Frontier Publishing

When a little girl announces that she’s bored her mum’s, “What’s happened to your imagination, Eva?” response triggers a wonderful adventure in which she and her canine companion Chops go on a search, although Eva doesn’t know what an imagination actually is.

It’s a search that takes them all over the house as they journey into a forest,

climb mountains, explore a cave, visit a rainforest full of colourful creatures – some a bit scary. They discover a long-lost toy rabbit and some books …

but don’t find Eva’s imagination, or do they?

Eva certainly declares it “the best adventure”.

A wry look at the importance of allowing children to be bored, for that is when the all-important imagination often kicks in. After all, It’s that ability to stand back and say, “suppose that …’ or what if …’ in other words, the power of the imagination that has led to so many discoveries be they scientific, mathematical, technological.

Karen Erasmus clearly understands that as she transforms the interior landscape of Eva’s home into some wonderfully exciting places for the two searchers to explore.

Hurrah for an author and illustrator who understand just how crucial imagination is.