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.

Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat / Santa’s High-Tech Christmas / Christmas Gremlins / A Very Corgi Christmas

Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat
Lucy Rowland and Paula Bowles
Nosy Crow

Such is his fondness for taking a snooze that Santa’s fluffy feline Sammy will drop off pretty much anywhere and dream of accompanying his owner on the Christmas Eve delivery run.

What he doesn’t imagine though when he dashes off to Santa’s workshop, is the manner in which that dream finally comes true. The somnolent cat gets parcelled up and dropped in among the other packages on the back of the sleigh and then it’s a case of “Ho! Ho! Ho! “ and off they go.

However, Sammy isn’t the only extra rider on Santa’s sleigh that night. Two wicked robbers, Mischievous May and Bad Billy are ready and waiting to seize their big chance and help themselves to some of the parcels.

Can Sammy save the day? And what is the special present Santa leaves for his pet moggy under the Christmas tree?

Festive fun aided and abetted by a snoozy feline delivered in Lucy Rowland’s bouncing rhyme with the addition of a good sprinkling of elves and excitement in Paula Bowles’ pattern-rich illustrations.

Santa’s High-Tech Christmas
Mike Dumbleton and Angela Perrini
New Frontier Publishing

Santa has eschewed the old fashioned methods when it comes to transport and keeping account of Christmas parcels; instead he uses a motorised sleigh and stores all his lists on his smart new techno-pad. But disaster strikes as he’s whizzing over the rooftops by means of his rocket-pack; Santa’s techno-device plummets to the ground and he’s faced with a blank screen.

Enter Jasmin, a techno-savvy little girl who is more that happy to give sad old Santa a helping hand by showing him how to access all the information he needs.

Not only that but she comes to his aid in another way too: after all Christmas really is all about giving.

Mike Dumbleton’s jaunty rhyming narrative is given added zaniness by Angela Perrini’s illustrations.

Christmas Gremlins
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Chris Chatterton
Egmont

Oh my goodness, those gremlins are at large again in another of the Guillains’ rhyming romps and now they’re on the rampage creating havoc in the run up to Christmas. It seems they’re determined to get in on the act no matter whether it’s decorating the tree, baking mince pies and Christmas cake (or should that be gobbling same?), wrapping up all the presents (and everything else in sight), singing – more like screeching – carols at the door or popping out of Christmas cards. But that’s only indoors. Further prankish doings are likely outside too: nothing is safe from their mischief so let’s hope they’re well out of the way before Santa arrives.

With more than 50 flaps to lift, this madness and mayhem will keep little ones entertained as they play hunt the mischief makers on every one of Chris Chatterton’s jolly spreads.

A Very Corgi Christmas
Sam Hay and Loretta Schauer
Simon & Schuster

The royal corgis are among those not feeling the Christmas spirit, far from it, all except for young Bella that is. Dazzled by the lights and excited by the hustle and bustle outside she decides to go and join in the fun. Hitching a ride in the back of a mail van, she gets out at Piccadilly Circus where everything suddenly feels overwhelming – too bright, too hectic and FAR TOO LOUD!

As luck would have it along comes London savvy pup Pip offering to show her the sights. A great time is had by both but suddenly as they approach the palace, Pip goes missing. Will Posy ever see her newfound friend again? Perhaps with the assistance of a very special royal couple …

Delivered with an abundance of Christmas spirit, Sam and Loretta’s London tale is a charmer.

Friendship Rules: Lucia & Lawrence / The Sasquatch and the Lumberjack

Lucia & Lawrence
Joanna Francis
New Frontier Publishing

Lucia and Lawrence live next door to one another; their interests are very different: Lucia is dreamy, wildly imaginative and creative; Lawrence has an analytical mind, filling his head with numbers.
One rainy day when Lawrence first moved in, Lucia introduced herself with an invitation to play.

She also asked him to imagine a rainbow, something her neighbour couldn’t do; nor did he have the courage to go out and play with Lucia, so she takes matters into her own hands.

Before long the two have become friends. Lucia decides to invite Lawrence to her birthday party but still he cannot bring himself to accept.

Instead, busy in his room, he finds his own way to celebrate the occasion. That night he contacts Lucia again, informing her that he has made something for her.
The wait next day is long but eventually in her inimitable effervescent way, there she is …

It turns out she’s also brought her crayons along and with those puts the finishing touches to her gift. But the very best present of all, both for Lucia and Lawrence, is their togetherness.

There’s a wonderful whimsiness about Joanna Francis’ illustrations for her warm-hearted story of reaching out, find a way, understanding and finally, friendship.

The Sasquatch and the Lumberjack
Crix Sheridan
Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch)

If you don’t know what a sasquatch is, let’s say it’s a kind of yeti type creature, huge and hairy – think Bigfoot.

In this wonderful tale with minimal words, Sheridan creates a tale of a highly unlikely friendship that grows between a woodcutter and a sasquatch after they encounter one another in the forest and experience the seasons in each other’s company.

Together they have a lot of exciting adventures: the richly hued Autumn provides a foragers’ feast.

Winter offers icy surfaces for skating and and snowy ones for ski-ing and sledging.

Spring brings renewal to the forest with fragrant flowers,

hiking and biking while Summer brings surfing, and swimming under golden skies.

Then Autumn is back and the cycle begins all over with the friends ready for a fresh round of delights.

It’s terrific fun and full of heart with Sheridan’s cracking illustrations doing most of the talking.

Mike the Spike / Barkus Dog Dreams


Mike the Spike

Stella Tarakson and Benjamin Johnston
New Frontier Publishing

Small for his age, Mike has red hair; it’s his pride and joy, particularly because it makes him look taller when he’s gelled it into spikes. The trouble starts when his class is busy engaged in hat making for the great hat parade to be held in a couple of days. Everyone’s hat is well under way except Mike’s; he’s having trouble deciding what to make on account of his itchy head, which has been bothering him all day. Dandruff maybe, he wonders. But then as the lad gives his head yet another scratch, something becomes wedged under his fingernail. Oh no! Mike has head lice.

Determined to keep the matter a secret both from people at school and his mum, the boy takes matters in his own hands; but his lice-ridding attempts fail miserably.

Seizing the opportunity to go to the chemist when Mum needs some more contact lens cleaner, Mike asks the chemist for what he thinks he needs.

Eventually though he has the right shampoo for the task, a task he decides must be done in the school toilets. No easy task since the stuff needs to be left on for twenty minutes.

Will he ever rid himself of this pesky problem and can he manage to make himself a stylish hat in time for the parade?

The gigglesome moments as the lad tries to sort out one scratchful incident after another are likely to induce splutters of mirth from newly independent readers whether or not they’ve suffered from having those uninvited guests in their own hair. Watch out when you read this review (or better still, the book,) that you don’t suddenly get that urge to scratch.

A sprinkling of coloured louse-some, laugh-some illustrations from Benjamin Johnson have wriggled their way into the tale.

Barkus Dog Dreams
Patricia MacLachlan and Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books

Five further episodes, one per chapter, in the life of the mischievous Barkus, his little girl owner Nicky, feline Baby, and their family.

Once again Nicky acts as narrator relating a visit to see Robin the vet on account of a problem with Barkus’ ear (it’s infected);

a birthday party for the town in which they all live when Barkus finds temporary fame as a singer as he comes to the aid of a soprano struggling to reach the high notes;

and a search and rescue for some missing farm animals. Barkus makes friends with the next door neighbour’s dog, Millie and an exchange of toys takes place. The final chapter has Millie and owner Miss Daley staying with Nicky’s family while a storm rages and there’s a power cut.

It’s all highly entertaining, generously illustrated with Marc Boutavant’s bright, funny pictures and there’s just the right amount of action and detail to keep those just starting to fly solo as readers interested and involved.