Science School / Out and About Minibeast Explorer

Science School
Laura Minter & Tia Williams
Button Books

Covering such topics as magnetism, gravity, change of state, oxidation, the growth of fungus and much more – all relating to basic scientific principles, the latest collaboration from Laura Minter and Tia Williams offers thirty STEM experiments, some crafty, for youngsters to try at home.

None of the activities require sophisticated equipment; rather they can be done at home with everyday materials you’re already likely to have knocking around somewhere. A list of what’s needed is given at the start of each project and there are photographs showing what to do, beneath each of which are step-by-step instructions, and, the science behind the experiment is concisely explained in the final ‘Science Made Simple’ paragraph(s) that often takes the science a bit further too.

My experimenters especially enjoyed making the “Magnetic Dancing Robots’ and other characters. 

Important at all times, but even more so as COVID is still with us, is the experiment showing the difference after around 10 days to three slices of bread: the first wiped all over with unwashed hands; the second wiped with sanitised hands and the third with hands that have been thoroughly washed with warm soapy water for 20+ seconds, completely dried and then wiped on slice number 3 (make sure the bag into which each is placed is labelled before putting it in a dark place.)

Providing hours of fun learning, this book is particularly useful for homeschooling.

Out and About Minibeast Explorer
Robyn Swift, illustrated by Hannah Alice
Nosy Crow

Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this handy guide for youngsters features more than sixty minibeasts about which Robyn Swift presents a wealth of information related to identification, lifecycles, habitats, anatomy and more. Did you know that a decapitated cockroach is able to live for up to nine days; that the blood of slugs is green, or that seagull sized dragonflies lived before dinosaurs roamed the earth?

The importance of minibeasts is explained and also included are some pages of activities, a classification chart and a quiz.

Hannah Alice’s illustrations of the creatures are clear and easily recognisable making this a super little book to tuck into a backpack when you go out and about no matter if it be in town, countryside or the garden.

Llama on a Mission / Waiting for Murder

Llama on a Mission
Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
Farshore

This is the second story featuring ten-year old Yasmin and her magical toy llama guardian Levi, and it’s every bit as daftly funny as the first.

Having found her voice with Levi’s help and a new friend, Ezra, she’s ready for year 6.

With her sights set on joining the art club, Yasmin is more than a tad perturbed when her teacher Miss Zainab informs her that she’s been selected to join the science team The Funsen Burners and participate in an inter-school competition. Just when what she really wants is to spend time getting Levi restored to his normal toy state. That, and get on with the new comic, LOUDMOUTH, she’s trying to create for another competition.

The very last thing she wants is for Levi to be sent all the way back to Peru but the way he starts behaving while engaged on his mission under the watchful eye of Mama Llama could result in just that. Then what? Yasmin just can’t let it happen. With Ezra’s assistance, perhaps there’s something that can be done; meanwhile she needs to learn the difference between talking and communicating.

Is it a case of mission accomplished? The only way too find out is to get hold of a copy of this tale of high drama and a whole lot of trouble. Allen Fatimaharan has done a terrific job with the illustrations, adding to the fun of the book.

For older readers is:

Waiting for Murder
Fleur Hitchcock
Nosy Crow

Daniel and his archaeologist mum are spending the summer in the country and a sweltering one it is. While his mum is engaged on her dig, (searching for the grave of Edith the Fair, King Harold’s wife) Dan too is observing and he also makes a discovery – a car with what looks like a body in the reservoir.

Next morning however, the body is no longer there, but Dan notices new scratches on the car. Seemingly, something strange is going on, something that needs investigating. Moreover somebody in the village is absolutely determined to stop Dan and his new friend, Florence from discovering the truth.

The climax of this terrific story more or less coincides with the weather finally breaking and pretty soon torrents of muddy water threaten to sweep everyone and everything away.

With an abundance of thrills and some surprises, this is a totally gripping, nail-biting, page-turner with a surprise finale. Crime drama for youngsters doesn’t come much better than this.

Wigglesbottom Primary: Dino Chick / Wulfie: Beast in Show

Wigglesbottom Primary: Dino Chick
Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Becka Moor
Nosy Crow

This contains three more episodes in the life of Class Two R and once again they’re in high spirits. At least that’s so in the first story when they learn from Miss Riley that she’s installed an incubator within which are four chicken eggs. They’re less excited to hear that the eggs will take several days to hatch especially when later in the day it comes to their notice that one egg has mysteriously changed colour. Miss Riley sits them down and tells everyone not to touch any of the eggs. Megan decides that the purple and green egg must contain a dinosaur. What a terrifying thought. Several days later three of the eggs have hatched and three fluffy chicks are in the incubator. Suddenly egg number four starts to crack … YIKES! what will emerge?

In the second story there’s a new girl in the class. Individuals take turns to show her parts of the school, including some that are strictly out of bounds. 

It’s an unlikely way to make somebody feel welcome but who gets the biggest surprise of all?

The final tale starts with the discovery that the school library is to close due to lack of funds. Can 2R come up with a plan to save it and keep Mr Hope in his job?

Another three wonderfully silly stories for new solo readers (or to read aloud) that show how easily children’s vivid imaginations can spiral into comedic craziness, a craziness that is echoed in Becka Moor’s lively illustrations.

Wulfie: Beast in Show
Lindsay J. Sedgwick, illustrated by Josephine Wolff
Little Island Books

Libby and her beloved purple fluffy best friend, Wulfie (Wolfgang Amadeus Rachmaninoff the Third) return in a second adventure. Libby’s unpleasant stepmother announces the imminent arrival of her older sister, Aunt Ilda. A fanatical dog breeder, she’s determined to win the SNOB prize in the forthcoming dog show to be shown live on TV. Concluding that her failure to win on previous occasions is due to not having a child assistant, she wants to enlist Libby’s awful, spoilt step-brother Rex.

Libby knows she must try to ensure that with Wulfie being so dog-like in appearance, he stays out of sight during the visit. No mean task as the wulfen’s behaviour is, let’s say, somewhat unpredictable and he can sometimes change size at the most inopportune times. 

Times such as his emergence from the washing machine right in front of Aunt Ilda who immediately decides that Wulfie must be her entry in the dog show. And if taking Libby as well as Wulfie and Rex away with her is what it takes, then so be it. 

What she doesn’t know however, is that in addition to his size changing and talking, Wulfie’s sneezes freeze time.

When Libby hears the words, “Your creature belongs to me now, runt, and he is going to make me more famous than any other famous person ever in the whole world.” she knows that Wulfie desperately needs to be rescued. 

But perhaps not before he’s had the chance to make Aunt Ilda look a complete fool on television.

Another fun, action-packed drama with some rather unpleasant characters, as well as the determined, lovable Libby and her equally lovable bestie, all splendidly illustrated by Josephine Wolff.

Toddler Bookshelf

The Great Big Egg Hunt
Ekaterina Trukhan
Nosy Crow
It’s a special egg hunting day with Rabbit and her friends. Having collected her basket, Rabbit and readers start the search. First Chick joins in and they search the bathroom where they discover Duck but no eggs. The search continues in the kitchen then moves out into the garden where eventually, after a few false starts, the five friends have an egg each. Hurrah!
With its simple, predictable text, plenty of flaps to explore and cute illustrations, little ones will enjoy participating in this seasonal search-and-find game.

Not quite a board book but sturdily made is:

Pip and Posy: The Friendly Snail
Axel Scheffler and Camilla Reid
Nosy Crow
Best friends Pip and Posy are spending time together outdoors in the garden. Pip is enjoying a spot of peaceful gardening but Posy is in a noisy mood banging and bouncing around. Suddenly Pip discovers a friendly snail while Posy continues with her noisy play, even frightening the snail back inside its shell. Enough is enough: Pip tells Posy to go away and upset, she disappears somewhere leaving Pip to continue with his work. So engaged is he that he fails to notice another creature getting ever closer to the snail. Happily Posy has been watching and now has the ideal reason to make a lot of noise …
An engaging tale illustrated in Alex’s trademark style, demonstrating an important life lesson: differences should be valued if friendships are to flourish.

Sleep, Cat, Sleep
Antje Damm
Prestel
The cat in this little board book is not happy; he’s trying hard to sleep but the fact that somebody has opened the first page has roused him from his slumbers. He tries hiding and pleading, which seem to do the trick, but then the page is turned again and those delightful dreams disappear. However the sleepy creature perceives that the destroyer of his dreams is now also rather in need of some shut-eye – maybe it’s time to turn the tables …
Simple, playful, interactive fun for pre-bedtime sharing with sleepy little humans.

A Little Snail Book: Hide-and-Seek
Shasha Lv
Chronicle Books
Bear is playing hide-and-seek with his friends, Little Mouse, Little Turtle, Little Cat, Little Duck, Little Pig and Little Snail. Despite their best efforts he successfully finds all but Little Snail. The other animals are amused at the fact that the tiny creature is hiding in plain sight and little humans will have a good giggle at the fact that the smallest animal can outwit the seeker. It’s he that acts as narrator sharing his search in a simple first person narrative throughout the game.
Silly but lots of fun; Shasha Lv uses a limited colour palette effectively in her amusing scenes of the animals’ game.

I am a Fish / Birch Trees, Bluebells and other British Plants

I am a Fish
Isabel Otter and Fernando Martin
Little Tiger

This is a companion volume to I am a Bird from the same team. Using an un-named fish, youngsters are introduced to the general characteristics of a fish and then dive underwater to discover a variety of aquatic habitats and learn something of fishes’ habits (we meet both herbivores and carnivores),

shapes, size and distinguishing features. Mention is made that ‘rays don’t have bones’ but that they and the sharks illustrated alongside, are cartilaginous fish is not stated.
If you’ve ever wondered whether or not fish sleep, this subject is discussed on another of the vibrant spreads while another spread introduces seahorses, which some little ones might be surprised to discover are actually classed as fish.
The chatty narrative and arresting subaquatic scenes make this a book for early years audiences and foundation stage topic boxes.

Birch Trees, Bluebells and other British Plants
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow

Here’s a gorgeous ‘Nature Sticker Books’ to lift the spirits. Published in collaboration with the National Trust, it contains eleven beautiful scenes by Nikki Dyson that are brimming over with the bounties of nature whatever the season.

It starts with spring and its gorgeous insect-attracting blossom and wild flowers aplenty. Summer scenes show gardens are full of bright flowers and butterflies, as well as meadows of poppies, daisies and other composites. Summer’s a good time to visit a pond or perhaps the coast: those locations too, have a wealth of beautiful wild plants and birds. Come autumn ripening berries are waiting to be gathered and the deciduous trees take on their yellow, orange and red hues while in gardens and allotments there are vegetables aplenty as well as herbs to pick and you’re likely to come across lots of minibeasts that also like to have a nibble.
Finally winter comes around when there is much less colour but there are still wonderful flora and fauna to discover when you brave those chills.

Each spread has a couple of introductory factual paragraphs as well as suggestions for adding some of the relevant stickers provided in the centre of the book. There’s also a checklist of the plants in the book so young naturalists can enjoy an additional I-spy element.

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad: A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad: A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

This the latest in an excellent fun history series written by the award winning Chae Strathie and developed in consultations with British Museum experts, reveals what it was really like to be a child in the Aztec age..
Covering the topics one’s come to expect of the series – clothing and hairstyles, education, diet, the home, family life, health and medicine as well as some you might not, such as human sacrifice (it could happen just for being a member of a losing team), this truly is horrible history made highly visual.

Imagine – or preferably don’t unless you want to puke – being fed maggots, tadpoles, lizards and the like, or a cake made with blue green algae containing masses of water fly eggs – gross! It wasn’t all revolting though; there were occasional tomatoes and beans. This vegan reviewer would surely have gone hungry much of the time.

Can you contemplate being stretched by the neck in a special ceremony every four years – a very strange way to demonstrate parental love but it happened; and then being likened to jade, a precious gem stone: talk about mixed messages.

As for schooling, modern youngsters might love the idea of not starting school until you’re in your teens, but it happened to Aztec children, who were home schooled up until then – sounds familiar! As does the dual system of one kind of school for the rich, another for the poorer families.

When I taught KS2 classes, children were always especially fascinated by the Aztecs and I have no doubt if I’d had this book there would have been a queue of eager readers waiting to get their hands on it. Marisa Morea brings all the gory details to life in her wealth of illustrations that illuminate the text.

Magnificent Mabel and the Egg and Spoon Race / Aisha and Silver

These are the latest titles in two of Nosy Crow’s series for younger readers kindly sent for review

Magnificent Mabel and the Egg and Spoon Race
Ruth Quayle, illustrated by Julia Christians

No matter what life throws at her, young Mabel is MAGNIFICENT. But for Mabel Chase, the book’s narrator things are sometimes not fair – at all. Seemingly however careful she is about things like being a worthy partner to Edward Silitoe on school sports day, the two just don’t see eye to eye or even arm to arm, let alone egg to spoon. No matter, somehow or other her magnificence always shines through – eventually.

Next, there’s the class play and this term for a change, Mabel really, really wants to get a leading part, William Shakespeare, preferably. But then who is she asked to play but Titania. No matter, magnificence rules, and where there’s a Will, there’s a way …

Then comes the Dermot episode. It comes about when Mabel’s family finally agree to take her to a dog show one weekend. It’s somewhere you can only go (so her Dad says) if you have a dog, Time to start training for the agility event.

As always, our narrator comes out on top.

These latest comical slices of mischief of the Mabel kind with spirited illustrations by Julia Christians, will appeal to the slightly mischievous side of young children be they those readers just starting to fly solo or story time listeners in the foundation stage.

Aisha and Silver
Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman

The Unicorn Academy series has captured the hearts of many young solo readers with its mix of sparkling magic and the kind of issues concerning friendship, loyalty and overcoming problems that most primary children have to contend with.

In this latest slice of enchantment Aisha faces problems: first the likelihood of having to repeat an entire school year as she hasn’t yet discovered Silver’s particular magic or bonded with him. Secondly, there’s been a spate of terrible hailstorms that have been causing damage to their beloved school and worse, might endanger the life of anybody caught out in one. That’s the reason for the early closure of the school leaving Aisha just five days to bond with Silver and to stop the storms.

It’s crucial to find out who or what has been causing them: with Aisha also intent on perfecting her music for the dorm’s display ride, she’s under a lot of pressure. It looks as though teamwork will be required to take on the mysterious LT.

Another engaging read with plenty of lovely illustrations by Lucy Truman to break up the text.

The Wizard in the Wood / Diagnosis Danger

The Wizard in the Wood
Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow

This is the third in Louie Stowell’s magical series.
A new term is about to begin for Kit, Josh and Alita. Before school starts though, Faith announces that the Wizards’ Council want to meet Kit.

Once in front of the council members, Kit learns that she has a very special mission – to take a new dragon’s egg to its new home beneath its own library where it will hatch.
Imagine her friends’ surprise and excitement when she and Faith return with a box containing said egg and Kit announces, “We brought you a present” and they discover what’s inside. It’s a dragon’s egg that must be planted beneath their very own school.

Faith makes two more exciting announcements: a new library awaits once school opens and that also means the arrival of a brand new wizard librarian. Surely nothing could be better than that.

The following day the term begins and the children meet this new librarian whom Faith has said is an old friend of hers. named Ben. He certainly seems a pretty cool guy. But is he?

Pretty soon the children discover that something isn’t right and they’re faced with solving a ginormous problem. It’s either that or face a world-changing disaster. Confronted by a hugely challenging, exciting mission, they really must all work as a team.

With plenty of jokes, great dialogue with lots of banter, and a smashing twist in its tail ,this is another cracker from Louie, especially as it celebrates the power of books and of story.

Whether shared as a primary classroom story time or read by individuals, this book is a delight, made all the more so by Davide Ortu’s offbeat illustrations.

Diagnosis Danger
Roopa Farooki
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

Do you know primary readers in need of an antidote to the trials of lockdown and home schooling? Then try doctor Roopa Farooki’s second exciting double detectives mystery.

Twins Tulip and Ali, the daughters of a hospital doctor, return in another sleuthing story and again they’re faced with a mysterious case to solve. Fortunately with mum a hospital doctor, and thus some medical knowledge of their own, as well a considerable amount of unsquashabilty and noses for danger, this pair have the tools for the job.

It begins when an unknown person attacks their friend Momo and he ends up in hospital, the attacker vanishing without trace. Needless to say Ali and Tulip waste no time is trying to track down the assailant.
Before you can say ‘sliced popliteal artery’ they and Nan-Nan ( a brilliant character) are on their way to a ‘holiday’ destination (unknown to two of their number). Eventually they arrive at a place calling itself Catty’s Cattery; the twins are puzzled and anything but impressed.

However, things are set to get even more strange, when, standing at the reception desk of this weird ‘kitty-obsessed-hotel from hell’ as Ali calls it, is a man who bears a close resemblance to the villainous Evelyn Sprotland. But is this a case of diagnosis ‘bang on the head’ or perhaps, ‘Diagnosis Doppledanger’. What exactly is the real purpose of this peculiar establishment? And, who is Catty; its boss? She certainly seems very choosy about who’s allowed to stay. The mystery deepens.

More important, can the twins aided and abetted by Nan-Nan get to the bottom of things?

Roopa’s mix of unusual characters, witty dialogue, large doses of humour and scatterings of medical information, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read that will enthral readers who like something a little out of the ordinary. Book your consultation with the twins right away.

The Castle the King Built

The Castle the King Built
Rebecca Colby and Tom Froese
Nosy Crow

Using the rhythmic pattern and structure of the nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built, Rebecca Crosby cleverly mixes fact and fiction to create a story of the building of a medieval castle.

We meet those involved in its creation – stonemasons, carpenters

and smiths, as well as, once it’s built, the people who contribute to the castle’s functioning – grooms, knights, merchants, bakers, servants, minstrels and of course, ruler of the land -the king himself.

The final spread presents the entire cast of characters each of them explaining their part (this includes a few women residents not mentioned in the main text)

Rebecca’s skilful use of rhyme and rhythm ensures that the book reads aloud well and Tom Froese uses an appropriate retro style for his striking illustrations helping to create the long ago atmosphere of those days of yore when knights would joust and singing minstrels pipe and strum.

A thoroughly well-presented, enticing and gently educative book for classroom sharing and individual reading, published in collaboration with the National Trust. I specially like the final acknowledgement that everyone included played their part in the life of the making of the castle.

Clifftoppers: The Frost Castle Adventure / A Christmas in Time

Here are two gripping wintry stories from Nosy Crow Publishers:

Clifftoppers: The Frost Castle Adventure
Fleur Hitchcock

This is the fourth of the adventure series featuring Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh, who spend holidays at their grandparents’place. It’s coming up to New Year and as the story opens the cousins are trudging through the snow towards Frost Castle when a passing car spins out of control crashing into a snow drift. The children manage to extricate the driver, a young woman wrapped in several scarves, wearing a gold pendant and claiming to be cursed. It turns out that she’s a well-known actress who’s to play the lead in Frost Castle’s winter play – a murder mystery – and she also mentions an attempted break-in at her flat before she’d set off for the Castle.

Before long the four children are asked to help with the play. Despite talk of ghosts, they think they should stay and very soon that pendant goes missing. There must be a villain lurking in their midst.
Can the cousins use their skills and courage to discover what is really going on?

With her terrific storytelling skill, Fleur Hitchcock snares readers’ attention from the outset and keeps them involved and intrigued throughout. Whether or not they’re familiar with the previous books, children will thoroughly enjoy this one.

A Christmas in Time
Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Rachael Dean

This is the latest in Sally Nicholls’ time-slip series wherein Ruby and Alex fall through the mirror in their aunt’s house to discover they’re in a different historical period and have to undertake a task before returning to the present.

Now Aunt Joanna has broken her leg and the siblings are anticipating a Christmas doing chores when suddenly having gone through the mirror, they’re back in 1872 about to experience a Victorian Christmas instead.

As a result they meet Edith (8) who with no mother and a father soon to return to India, is about to be sent off to a horrible-sounding boarding school. Then Alex and Ruby realise that she’s being sent to the very place where in February 1873 a terrible cholera epidemic killed off two thirds of the children. Can they persuade her father – the far from pleasant Uncle Elijah – to send her elsewhere.

By all accounts it’s not going to be easy, but can they work some seasonal magic and turn things around for Edith? Or maybe she’ll decide to take matters into her own hands …

With plenty of action, a very interesting cast of characters (some rather eccentric), and details of a Victorian Christmas with singing,

parlour games, ice-skating and candles this is a smashing read, be it in the run-up to Christmas or at any time. I love Rachael Dean’s illustrations and Isabelle Follath’s cover art too.

There’s A Mouse In My House

There’s a Mouse in my House
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

A tiny mouse has had the temerity to move into our Bear narrator’s residence so he tells us. Outraged, Bear is determined to oust his unwanted interloper by telling him ‘he has to go.’ But what he doesn’t know it that the little rodent has been taking lessons in taekwondo – of all things – and you can see who comes off worse in that encounter. OUCH!

So what about suggesting alternative spots Mouse might prefer to be – Luxembourg or Borneo perhaps. But it’s no go on that score. Apparently, the intruder is staying put and is making it known in no uncertain terms by usurping Bear’s chair.

Yes, Mouse might be a dapper dresser as well as being a diminutive creature but he has a gargantuan appetite and is eating his host out of house and home – literally. Then there’s the nocturnal noise pollution habit: how on earth is our narrator supposed to sleep with all that row? But it’s the bathroom disaster that’s just about the last straw …

Uh-oh! Someone’s come a-knocking on this snowy night. Who on earth would venture out right now? And why? …

Delivered with Ross’s characteristic rollicking rhyming panache and brilliantly droll scenes showing how in this sequel Bear gets repaid (to begin with anyway) for his misdeeds in There’s a Bear on My Chair. But it’s the clever interplay between text, illustrations and design that is SO well done.

AGAIN! I hear the cries from young humans, who will relish this delectable drama (along with the adults who read it aloud).

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!
selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

I love getting poetry anthologies to review, for despite owning a iarge bookcase crammed with books of poems (for both adults and children) and having compiled a fair number of the latter myself, I always make some exciting new discoveries.

What joy then, to have a bumper compilation such as Fiona’s offering, an animal poem for every day of the year, with a stunningly beautiful illustration from Britta gracing every spread.

Name an animal and more than likely you will find it featured somewhere in this collection; and you’ll find a creature (sometimes several) for almost every letter of the alphabet with the notable exceptions of q – this has Tony Chen’s Question: ‘As asphalt and concrete / Replace bushes and trees, / As highways and buildings / Replace marshes and woods, / What will replace / The song of birds?’ , u (there is a poem but it’s an extract from John Bunyan’s Upon a Snail) and x is not represented at all.

Whether your preference is for creatures great or creatures small, feathered, scaled, smooth-skinned or spiney you will be satisfied. Having seen the bird she writes of standing in the rain on my walk yesterday I absolutely loved discovering this new to me poem of Roberta Davis: ‘Perfectly still / in the falling snow / grey heron’

I also heard on that same walk but didn’t see, a Woodpecker, the subject of John Agard’s wonderful poem – another new discovery for me, the first verse of which is ‘Carving / tap/tap / music / out of / tree trunk / keep me / busy / whole day / tap/tap / long ‘

Despite summer now being over for this year, there are still plenty of bees, wasps and other small insects about including the bees that George Szirtes writes of in The Bee’s Knees: ‘Great hairy knees bees have as they squat / in the flowers then push off with a spring, / all six knees pumping and shoving. With so much power they’re soon airborne, resilient, / muscular, adrift. // The bee’s knees. // Brilliant. ‘ And brilliant that surely is. Henceforth I’ll look anew at bees.

There’s more about minibeasts and their knees in Dorothy Aldis’ Singing: ‘Little birds sing with their beaks / In the apple trees; / But little crickets in the grass / Are singing with their knees. ‘

Interestingly October has four wasp poems though I’m less well disposed towards those buzzers as I have a wasps’ nest all a-buzz outside one of the bedroom windows; so I really appreciate the opening lines of Carol Ann Duffy’s The Wasp: ‘Help me to love the wasp, / help me to do that thing – / to admire the raspy buzz / of its wings, to grow fond / of its droning whinge.’

Having spent most of this review talking of creatures small, I should finish with a poem about a large one and a favourite of mine – the subject of another new delight for me; it’s Liz Brownlee’s An Elephant is Born: ‘Night holds them safe / the moon cloud gleams, / deep in the darkness / of soft breath and dreams, // the elephant mother / greets her new son, / with a tender and gentle, / low, soft hum, // strokes his face / the night-left long, / and sings her newborn / elephant song.’

Finally, I must endorse what Nosy Crow’s Louise Bolongaro says in her introduction, ‘Poems and reading “matter” more than ever but so does the natural world. If this book can nurture a love of the animal kingdom, then maybe it will also help create the conservationists of the future.’ If that isn’t a reason to go out and buy a copy to give as well as one to keep, then what is?

Celebrating Nosy Crow Board Books

Peekaboo Bear
Peekaboo Apple

Camilla Reid and Ingela P Arrhenius

Toddlers and babies absolutely love to play peekaboo, especially when there’s a mirror involved, so these two books will be winners on both counts. Add to that Camilla Reid’s playful rhyming couplets that introduce equally playful, adorably illustrated animals, some of which are revealed by manipulating the sliders in Ingela P Arrhenius’s brightly coloured, patterned spreads, (as well as the occasional human in the Apple book)

and you have two sure fire winners for several more reasons. Exuberant language, alluring art, manipulative skill development and most importantly, sheer fun: what more can one ask of books for babies?

Listen to the Carnival of the Animals
Marion Billet

With its six sound buttons embedded in the spreads, tinies can listen to the Royal March of the Lion, The Elephant (and maybe stomp along too), bounce in time to Kangaroos, imagine floating neath the Aquarium water, enjoy the flutes emulating bird song in an Aviary and finally, glide gracefully across the lake like The Swan. Each animal (often along with minibeast bit-part players) is allocated a double spread brightly and engagingly illustrated and introduced with a sentence to maximise engagement such as “Does the bouncy piano sound like a kangaroo?’

or ‘Isn’t it magical under the water?’and there’s a final page asking “Which animal was YOUR favourite?’
A lovely introduction to Saint-Saēns’ classic The Carnival of the Animals for the very youngest listeners (with music played by two famous orchestras)

Who’s Hiding in the Snow?
Katharine McEwen

In five beautifully illustrated double spreads we visit a variety of chilly locations wherein to discover the answer to the titular question. First, we’re in the Asian tundra in the early morning to hunt for the climbing and flying animals that have hidden themselves under the snow (lift the flaps to find the amur leopard, the ermine, a Siberian squirrel, a Siberian tiger and a snowy owl.) Next stop is the icy Antarctic to search for swimming creatures, a bird that hops on one foot and a chinstrap penguin creche. Afternoon in the Eurasian mountains shows some animals while others –including an alpine marmot and sleeping wild boars are hiding.

A snowy Arctic evening depicts animals on the move and others such as the walrus, resting . It’s night-time when the final destination is reached and the northern lights shine to reveal the ears of grey wolves (the rest being hidden) as well as a moose lurking behind snow-capped rocks and some very sleepy dall sheep. Brr!

A considerable amount of information about the various animals is given on the inner side of the flaps under which the animals are hidden offering interactive learning of a fun kind for young children.

Mother and Daughter Dress-Up Dolls: Fashion from Long Ago / How to Speak Astromech with BB-8

These two books present opportunities to learn something new and have great fun in so doing.

Mother and Daughter Dress-Up Dolls: Fashion from Long Ago
Gracie Swan and Felicity French
Nosy Crow (in collaboration with the National Trust)

With this hardback book, children can press out eight dolls – four large and four small – mothers and daughters – dress them and learn lots about fashion from Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian times, as well as the Twenties, the Thirties and every other decade through to the 1970s.

Isabella and her mother Beatrice don their finest attire to attend a medieval banquet anticipating tasty food, loud music and acrobats to entertain them.

Margery and daughter Alice will head to the market once they’ve put on their warm woollen dresses, shawls and bonnets hoping to sell all their homemade bread.

Turn each of the press-out garments around and there’s an alternative story with two different characters, each time – a clever idea that provides a whole set of new opportunities.

Children will love discovering what their older relations wore and those before them, when they reach the twentieth century characters and their geometric mini-dresses, those jump suits, bell bottoms-trousers, maxi dresses and more. It’s amazing how everything comes around again!

In addition to the main items of clothing there’s a page of accessories and shoes to complete every one of the forty outfits. What more can aspiring fashionistas ask? Perhaps for a timeline – but there’s even one of those on the back inside cover.

Hours of fun learning to be had from this fascinating activity book.

How to Speak Astromech with BB-8
I.M. Rollin, illustrated by JAKe
Chronicle Children’s Books

Star Wars enthusiasts will love this sound book- a communication manual – that celebrates the enormously popular, adorably quirky droid character BB-8 that appeared in several of the films.

Included are ten built-in droidspeak audio clips, with translations and conversation tips, and funny illustrated scenarios that will help readers understand and get the best out of their own droid companion in a galaxy far, far away.

Astromech qualities such as playfulness, resourcefulness, determination, trustworthiness and bravery, demonstrated by means of BB-8’s adventures, are recognised herein. Fans will lap up the insider jokes too.

A fun and handy guide indeed, that fans young, and not so young, will delight in.

Pip and Posy The Christmas Tree / All Aboard for Christmas

Pip and Posy The Christmas Tree
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow Books

Pip and Posy are a duo much loved by countless under fives and now they star in a lovely new tale that’s a great seasonal treat.
It’s Christmas Eve and the best friends bring home a Christmas tree. Once installed in a large pot, they set to work decorating it.

First off they bake some festive biscuits to hang on it. Then Posy goes to get the candy canes but when she comes back, one of the biscuits has mysteriously vanished.

The same thing keeps happening: each time she turns her back to find more goodies to add to the tree, there’s one less decoration when she returns. Hmm!

Young children will of course relish seeing what Posy doesn’t. Nor does she realise what’s been going on until she finds Pip flat out on the sofa with a rather bulging tum and saying he’s feeling sick.

Posy keeps quiet and allows Pip time to confess and then the two work together towards a satisfying solution to their lack of tree ornaments

and for listeners especially, there’s a lovely, even more satisfying finale come Christmas morning.
An enormously appealing festive addition to this ever-popular series of Axel’s.

All Aboard for Christmas
Andrew Kolb and Nichole Mara
Abrams Appleseed

There’s a train full of seasonal fun just waiting at the station – it’s Santa’s Christmas train with a gingerbread driver. Inside (lift the flaps to see within) it’s packed full of brightly coloured things to look for and to discuss, questions to answer and most important, lots to enjoy. There are elves and reindeer, penguins, pies and plenty of other good things to eat, toys and other treats.

Once extended, the train is over a metre long and you can reverse the extended carriages to see the frozen, snowy landscape through which Santa journeys, all the while searching the carriages for his missing boot..

With its die-cut windows, there’s plenty to engage little ones who take the ride on Christmas Eve.