Play and Learn with Board Books

The Touch Book
written by Nicola Edwards
Little Tiger

Here’s a book that invites young children to “Get Hands-on! and explore texture and who could resist those paint-covered fingers of the little girl on the opening page?

In all, ten different textures are presented: fluffy, crinkly, smooth, bumpy, sticky, spongy, furry, rough, scratchy and soft, and each double spread offers three possible synonyms for the one presented. For instance, crinkly alternatives are wrinkly, ridged and ragged.

However it’s not only the sense of touch that’s being developed: ‘run your finger along something crinkly, what kind of noise does it make?’ asks the narrator; while the ‘sticky’ spread talks of sticky things being either tasty or ‘icky’ which might lead into a tasting session. Your fingertips really do stick to the tiny hexagons beneath the dripping honey so ‘tacky’ might be a good alternative though you’d definitely need to taste some honey to decide if syrupy is appropriate.

I like that little ones are invited to describe the textured patch beneath the digger – would they use ‘scratchy’ or perhaps gritty, grainy or raspy?

Full of potential learning opportunities, this sturdy book can be used either in a family or in an early years setting, perhaps as part of a larger sensory theme.

Although not sensory, to add to the overall fun, I’d suggest following up a sharing of the next book with some hands-on experiences

What Are Unicorns Made Of?
illustrated by Louise Anglicas
Little Tiger

A rhyming text guides the adult reader aloud, presenting possible answers to the titular question while Louise Anglicas’s candy-coloured illustrations showing unicorns cavorting across the countryside, through Sweetville, over the rainbow, among the trees and dancing to music offer plenty to explore.

The first consideration of unicorn-ness concerns what’s within: could they be filled with jellybeans, or perhaps ‘yummy pink popcorn?
What about their manes: marshmallow or possibly strawberry ice-cream – maybe but then neither would last long with hungry toddlers in the vicinity! Imagine unicorn rainbow tails all a-sparkle in the sun or horns alive with beautifully patterned butterflies, glittery musical hooves: the only way to discover if any of these might be part and parcel of a unicorn is to close your eyes and wish to see one – ta-da …

Animal World: I Can learn My First Colours
Lauren Crisp, illustrated by Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books (Little Tiger)

Four-line verses and images of beady-eyed animals are used to help reinforce, or perhaps introduce, the basic colours to toddlers: thus ‘Crocodile is green / with his teeth sharp and bright. / Whenever he snaps, / he will give you a fright!’ whereas ‘Giraffe is yellow / as tall as can be. / She nibbles on leaves / from high in the tree!’ In addition to the main text, along the edge of each verso asks for instance, “Who else is GREEN?’ Who else is PINK?’

The vertical rod inserted into the cover has 5 flattish cylinders, on each side of which is a small picture of an animal, so that little fingers can spin them around to discover another creature with a colour that matches the one in the main illustration.

The final spread shows a dozen butterflies each corresponding to one of the colours already featured and invites little ones to respond to two questions: “What is your favourite colour? And “What colours can you see high up in the sky?’

There’s a wealth of potential fun learning between the covers of this one.

Playing and Learning with Board Books

Introducing some new interactive board books from Little Tiger

Bear & Mouse Start the Day
Bear & Mouse Time for Bed

Nicola Edwards and Maria Neradova

Best friends Bear and Mouse (narrator) live together. As they Start the Day, prompted by Nicola’s simple questioning text, toddlers can help the two get up, eat breakfast, prepare to go out, take a bus ride and have fun playing in the park.

When it’s Time for Bed, just like little humans, they enjoy a splashy bath, brush their teeth, don their night attire and snuggle up together for a pre bedtime story.

Maria Neradova’s bright cheery illustrations have just the right amount of detail to keep interest levels high and interactive features in the form of flaps and sliders add to the fun.

abc nature
Nicola Edwards and Thomas Elliott

Even before little ones are at the alphabet learning or letter forming stage you can share this book with its alphabetical arrangement of natural things from acorns to zebras for naming and talking about each item using the photographic style illustrations.

They certainly won’t give any idea of relative size though: ‘earth’ is shown on the same page as ‘flower’ and they’re depicted as being roughly the same size. Nonetheless from the outset even the very youngest can be developing their visual skills and an interest in the natural world; the ‘touch and trace’ element of the book can come later.

Hide and Seek in the Forest
Rachel Elliot and Gareth Lucas

As day gives way to night, it’s bedtime for the baby animals in the forest but it seems as though they’re not quite ready to sleep. Instead Fawn, Baby Squirrel, Little Frog, Baby Rabbit and a baby owl decide to play hide-and-seek; and it’s down to little humans to help their respective parents find them hidden behind the shaped felt flaps on the five spreads.

Wait till your little humans are safely tucked up in bed before you share this jolly little book that’s aglow with Gareth Lucas’ illustrations, just in case they decide to emulate the baby animals.

My Book of Feelings
Nicola Edwards and Thomas Elliott

A range of topics, photographically illustrated, including the weather, foods, free time activities, animals, new experiences and different places are used to help young children explore their feelings.

To the same end there’s a novel feature -a double-sided emoji spinner – as well as a final mirror; however the book opens with a paragraph that includes this reminder, ‘Remember, feelings don’t always show on the outside.’ That’s something we adults probably understand but not so young children, as will the fact that our feelings are not fixed but subject to change.

In addition to being helpful for using with pre-schoolers, it might also work with slightly older children on the autism spectrum.

Like the Ocean We Rise

Like the Ocean We Rise
Nicola Edwards and Sarah Wilkins
Little Tiger

Our planet is vast and it’s beautiful too,
But it needs our help; it needs me, it needs you.

Assuredly it does. I was absolutely astonished and horrified to read in the paper apropos World Oceans Day about the large percentage of microfibres in our oceans that are a result of washing synthetic clothing.

It’s never too early for young children to begin thinking about some of the ways they can help to reduce the negative impact we have on our planet and consider how everybody can help to prevent climate change.

A good place to start is with this smashing rhyming picture book.

Most of us know of the impact Greta Thunberg has had in galvanising what has become a global movement involving student protesters from over 120 countries; and Nicola Edwards’ narrative celebrates the contribution of young people; but there is a lot still to be done.

No matter where in the world we are,

we can all in our own way become eco-warriors

just like those children portrayed in Sarah Wilkins’ vibrant peek-through illustrations that use the ripple effect of a single raindrop to add to the impact of the text’s simile.

I love her final scene that shows this wave-making movement really is a global one in which we all can, indeed MUST, play our part.

The final spreadsheet provides  a brief explanation of  climate change and why it matters and some ‘What Can We Do?’ suggestions .

The Same But Different Too / Goodnight World

The Same But Different Too
Karl Newson and Kate Hindley
Nosy Crow

Similarities and differences are highlighted and celebrated in this joyful and engaging rhyming book that uses both human and animal characters to demonstrate examples throughout a busy, fun-filled day from breakfast time to bedtime.

In between come a look at differing heights, climbing skills,

play activity preferences, age, dentition, position, speed and much more; and it’s particularly heartening to find that everyone shares the love of a story session.

Karl’s upbeat words in combination with Kate’s vibrant, zany artwork create a great picture book that’s perfect for family sharing and for foundation stage settings.

With the emphasis on embracing differences it’s a super book to open up discussions about such issues as inclusivity and acceptance. Every spread offers much to talk about and enjoy, helping to highlight how our differences make each and every one of us special and unique.

Goodnight World
Nicola Edwards and Hannah Tolson
Caterpillar Books

Ideal for bedtime sharing is this presentation of the ways of saying “Goodnight” in a dozen languages as well as in English.
Nicola Edwards rhyming narrative takes us through the bedtime rituals of different families as the little ones are hugged, have a bath, brush their teeth, tidy up toys,

perhaps listen to a phone message from a loved one far away,

and share a bedtime story …

Some tinies are just so tired they need carrying up to bed already fast asleep, while others bid each other “Goodnight’ or in German “Gute nacht”.

Others will have trouble falling asleep and need to count sheep before dreams come.

No matter what though, come nightfall, little ones everywhere go to bed having said “Goodnight” or perhaps used the Mandarin “Wān an”, the Russian “Spokoynoy nochi”; the Italian “Buona note”; the Finnish “Hyvää yötä”; or maybe they said “Usiku mwema” (Shahili); “Buenas noches” (Spanish), the Arabic “Tisbah ala khair”; the Hindi “Shubh raatri” or the French “Bonne nuit”.

Safe in their beds under shared moon and stars, everyone finally falls asleep.

In her bold naïve style, inclusive illustrations Hannah Tolson shows all these different bedtime scenarios as they unfold in various places.

When the Stars Come Out

When the Stars Come Out
Nicola Edwards and Lucy Cartwright
360 Degrees

With the coming of darkness, everything looks different, everything feels different: night is mysterious, night is magical.

Find out what makes it so in When the Stars Come Out.Into this book the author has packed illuminating information explaining first how night works due to the constant orbiting of the sun by planet Earth, and then putting mankind’s desire to understand the night into a historical context that can be traced right back as far as the Bronze Age.

Thereafter comes an upward-looking section called The Sky at Night. This encompasses topics such as being scared (or not) of the dark and things associated with it;

some facts about the Moon – its cycle, Armstrong’s moon landing and more. Did you know that the largest stars burn for tens of millions of years before running out of energy whereas medium-sized ones including our sun can continue burning for 10 billion years. WOW!

Moving our sights down somewhat, The Earth at Night homes in on different environments – the city, the desert, the Amazonian rainforest, the mountains,

the African savannah where should you happen to visit and listen very carefully, you might just hear the squeaks of yellow-winged bats, the slithering scraping of rock pythons or even the defensive growls of aardwolves. The woodland and the ocean also have spreads allocated.

The next focus is on what animals get up to at night – how are they adapted? Did you know that there are creatures that can sleep on the move, for instance the Swainson’s thrush which power naps frequently, and the albatross? We’ve all heard of sleepwalking but sleep-flying –awesome!

Although many humans spend the night (or most nights) in sleep, or attempted sleep, the length of this depends upon where on the globe you happen to be at a particular time of year; or perhaps whether you are attending an occasional night celebration such as New Year’s Eve.

Like all living creatures, we humans have a body clock, though ours with five sleep cycles, is far more sophisticated that say plankton. I was interested to learn that there is no word for insomnia in the languages of the non-industrial societies – the Hadza people of Tanzania, the San people of Namibia and the Tsimane people of Bolivia whose general pattern of sleep is from three and a half hours after sunset to just before sunrise, with no daytime naps.

Nowadays, those of us living in the Western world tend to choose a single overnight sleep, although some who help keep the night-time economy afloat such as bakers, as well as for instance hospital staff, carers and the police work in shifts and sleep during the day.

Nicola Edwards’ fascinating and wide-ranging interpretation of night is well served by Lucy Cartwright’s enthralling, richly detailed illustrations.

A book to keep readers awake at night should they start exploring it late in the day.

Happy / As We Grow / We Are Together

Here’s a trio of books from Caterpillar Books one of the Little Tiger Group imprints that I was excited by on my return  home after three weeks away in India.

Happy
Nicola Edwards and Katie Hickey
Caterpillar Books

Mindfulness is a popular theme at present and we’ve had several books on the subject for children in recent months, possibly as a response to the growing concern about the pressures even very young children are under in their everyday lives both in school and at home.

I know from experience that offering youngsters a brief period of quiet, calm time each day when they can be in the here and now away from the stresses and strains of life leads to a happier, more relaxed classroom or home atmosphere.

This beautiful book encourages children to become mindful, offering them some ways to be in the moment, to explore their emotions by tuning in to their senses in a meditative manner. They can listen to the natural sounds around them; or tune in to and focus on their feelings. Tension can be released not only from our minds but also our bodies in a manner similar to that at the end of a yoga session when participants are encouraged to tense and relax the muscles in their bodies one by one until the whole body is completely relaxed.

How many of us really pay attention to what we eat, to savour every mouthful noticing the texture and flavour as we chew: it’s a really great way of being mindful and perhaps more appreciative of our food.

Touch too is a way of connecting and calming, particularly when outdoors in natural surroundings; looking with awareness too works to calm and connect as do smelling and deep slow breathing.

The gorgeous illustrations and gentle, rhyming text herein will surely encourage children to slow down and become mindful, to discover that place of peace that’s deep within us all.

As We Grow
Libby Walden and Richard Jones
Caterpillar Books

This Walden/Jones collaboration is a great way to look at life as a journey full of changes, challenges and joy, that begins as a very tiny babe totally unaware of what is to come as we grow and travel through the years. What we can be sure of though, is that each stage will be different, full of excitement and new adventures. There’s that toddling stage that opens up a myriad of new experiences and quickly gives way to the more assured young child full of imaginative ideas, when language develops rapidly and words are a toy and a tool. Fuelled (one hopes) by mind-opening books a plenty that help with those ‘hows’, whys’ and whats’.

The transformation into a teen is a dramatic one when times are unsettled, restless and confusing, a time of self-discovery prior to adulthood; in the early stages of which independence and challenge go hand in hand before perhaps settling down and maybe even becoming the parent of a new little one.

Like life, this entire book is full of beautiful, memorable stopping points

richly portrayed in Richard Jones gorgeous scenes and Libby Walden’s lyrical text.

We Are Together
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books

Britta Teckentrup celebrates human diversity through a rhyming text and her inimitable vibrant style illustrations with their peep through cut out pages.

What better way to encourage young children to value togetherness than these opening lines: ‘On our own we’re special, / and we can chase our dream, / But when we join up, hand in hand, / together, we’re a team.’

Readers are then presented with a sequence of gorgeous scenes of children out together in the natural world that will surely encourage positive feelings in youngsters both about themselves and others.

Perfect for sharing in foundation stage settings and a great starting point for a circle time discussion.

Mind Your Manners

Mind Your Manners
Nicola Edwards and Feronia Parker-Thomas
Caterpillar Books

The creatures in this junglee tale need a lesson or two in minding their Ps and Qs and that is exactly what they get in Nicola Edwards’ rhyming advocacy for politeness and good manners. After all, if they’re all to live together in peace and harmony they need to listen to the wise words of advice offered herein.
Snatching pandas need to say a polite “please” while ungrateful tigers should always offer a pleasant “thank you” when they receive a gift or an act of kindness.
“Excuse me” is required vocabulary for stomping, clomping pachyderms, whereas ‘sorry’ is thus far lacking in the snake’s speech.

Not invading another’s space is also strongly advised, especially when that space happens to be a quiet reading spot.

Merely parroting another’s words is a definite no, no, as is dropping rubbish and thus upsetting the balance of nature. Oh my goodness these animals DO have a lot to learn.
Selfishness is thoroughly undesirable, as are disgusting food consuming habits,

as well as careless words that might hurt another’s feelings: sweet words are much, much better.

So too is knowing when it’s okay to be noisy and when quiet is the order of the day, while grouchiness and unkindness need to be replaced with warmth and sharing.

Look how much more desirable that jungle home is now that the animals are finally putting all that sound advice into practice.

Spirited scenes of animal behaviour good and bad (including that of the artist’s favourites, bears), executed in watercolour and pen, along with Nicola Edwards’ wise words delivered in rhyme; you have to get the rhythm right to share it effectively so I’d suggest a practice run first. There’s some fun alliteration concerning that silly snake and the  messy monkey to get your tongue around too.

More bears (along with foxes) grace the lovely endpapers – the front ones showing undesirable actions; the back ones, good  behaviour.