Find Tom in Time: Ancient Rome

Find Tom in Time: Ancient Rome
Fatti Burke
Nosy Crow

Published in collaboration with The British Museum, this is another Fatti Burke search-and-find story that plunges young Tom and his adventure-loving archaeologist Granny Bea’s mischievous cat Digby back in time, on this occasion, by means of a coin from the time of Hadrian.

As with his previous adventure, Tom visits all the major sites and his first stop in Rome is the bustling market forum. Where though are Granny Bea and Digby? The search is on but there’s so much else to spot at the forum before moving on to the next location – Circus Maximus where there’s a chariot race under way.

From there Tom tries the beautiful Pantheon building,

a sculptor’s studio; a busy aqueduct building construction site, blocks of flats called insulae (Latin for island); then further up the street, the public baths.

Still Granny and Digby remain illusive so he tries the harbour, two villas – one with a banquet under way,

and even catches sight of the emperor in a chariot as he searches the street, finally ending up at the huge Colosseum amphitheatre. Could it be that here he’ll finally catch up Granny and her cat?

All ends happily of course with the three reunited and back in their own time.

Every alluring spread is packed with fine details to pore over as well as a list of items to find (from a bird nesting in a centurion’s helmet to a fainting lady) and plenty of facts in bite-sized chunks.
Also included – solutions (in case you can’t find all the 100+ items), a glossary and index.
Especially worth getting hold of if your child or class is studying Ancient Rome but it’s lots of immersive fun learning in any case. Perhaps just what’s needed right now.

Building a Home

Building a Home
Polly Faber and Klas Fahlén
Nosy Crow

Most young children are fascinated with construction – their own and that which they see on a building site, especially all the big machines, so this book will certainly appeal.

It’s superbly illustrated by Klas Fahlén with just the right amount of detail and action,

and full of interesting characters – its great to see both men and women involved throughout – as readers follow the transformation of an old, edge-of-town office block into fine new homes for lots of people.

Writer, Polly Faber talks directly to her intended young audience including occasional rhyme and alliteration in her engaging narrative. She’s also included a pictorial glossary of the people and machines involved in the building’s transformation.

A thoroughly inclusive book with enormous potential for encouraging conversation and questioning, this is one to add to nursery, KS1 and family collections; especially the latter just now when one of the few things not completely closed down is building work, at least if my locality is anything to go by.

Talking to the Moon

Talking to the Moon
S.E.Durrant
Nosy Crow

What with Dad’s repairs to her bedroom and two year old twins to contend with, home life for Iris has become way too chaotic and stressful so she’s temporarily living with her highly unusual grandmother Mimi.

There though Iris soon discovers challenges and chaos of a different kind. Gran wants her to go swimming in the freezing cold sea and there’s no hot water to warm you up afterwards; and the place is full of bits and pieces Mimi has collected over the years, mostly boxes of old photos taken and developed by Mimi herself.

It’s not long before Iris begins to notice increasingly strange behaviour on Mimi’s part and it surely can’t all be down to her quirky nature. ‘It feels like Mimi’s getting holes in her memory. It’s scary,’ she tells readers.

Into the story steps the irritating, marble-obsessed boy Mason, who has observed some of Mimi’s behaviour from next door.

Despite all her intentions to wait until secondary school before forming a proper friendship, the two start spending time together. Mason’s granddad too has memory loss and the boy becomes increasingly involved in iris’s efforts to unravel the mystery of Coral, shown in one of Mimi’s photographs. Who is she and what happened to her?

Tenderly written, S.E. Durrant’s poignant story gently tackles the difficult subject of dementia and at the same time explores how the 11 year old narrator navigates her own tricky family circumstances.

We really feel we’re standing right beside Iris as she attempts to protect her beloved Mimi while dealing with the unsettling nature of her own life.

This utterly compelling book finishes with a beautiful and uplifting scene on Brighton’s seafront that brought a tear to the eye of this reviewer.

Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies / Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden

Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies
Becka Moor and Pamela Butchart
Nosy Crow

It’s always a delight to read of the exploits of Class 2R in their school where pretty much anything can happen.

Here we have three new fun, beautifully observed episodes wherein the children allow their imaginations to take flight. In the first story it’s a case of bunnies running riot in the playground: could they be ATTACK BUNNIES and why are they there?

The second tale, has class teacher Miss Riley announcing the imminent arrival of a ‘special guest’. Is the man who sits at the back of the class a TV talent spotter or has he another purpose for watching the goings on of teacher and pupils?

In story number three the children all sign up for violin lessons but their music teacher, Miss Stein looks really spooky. Could she perhaps be a witch – a bewitching witch?

It’s so easy to get sucked into 2B’s zany premises in these enormously enjoyable stories and the final revelations are always delicious.

As ever Pamela Buchart has done a brilliant job illustrating these small sparkling stories. She catches the zaniness of Becka’s tellings SO well making every page turn not only a verbal but a visual treat.

Bring on the next one.

Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden
Vivian French, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Meet Lottie Luna, star of a super new series by Vivian French.
Lottie is a werewolf, but a very special one with extra powers on account of her being born during a full lunar eclipse. Hence she’s super speedy, super strong, has x-ray vision and has super hearing. Oh yes and she’s also a princess on account of her father inheriting a kingdom.

This however means that she’s had to move home to the crumbling Dracon Castle and consequently has to start at a new school mid year. Like many youngsters, Lottie is nervous about this and certainly doesn’t want it known at Shadow Academy that she’s special even if that means not revealing her real self.

Lottie’s class teacher announces a pupil project – to create a design to transform the wasteland behind the school into a beautiful garden and the winning design will be used for the purpose.

Before long Lottie finds she has two friends, and decides that the head of her new school is amazing – a kindred spirit too; perhaps things won’t be so bad after all.

As for the garden design, Lottie is the winner but once the garden creation begins,

more challenges arise – there’s a Bloom Garden saboteur at work.

Now Lottie must do all she can to save the enterprise from road developers; but can she do it? Perhaps it’s time to draw on those superpowers of hers …

Friendship, determination, being true to yourself, courage, resilience and forgiveness are at the heart of this smashing story Vivian has woven.

Nathan Reed has done a terrific job with his black and white illustrations; they’re offbeat and splendidly playful.

More please!

Mr Brown’s Bad Day / Bunnies on the Bus

Mr Brown’s Bad Day
Lou Peacock and Alison Friend
Nosy Crow

Mr Brown is a Very Important Businessman with a Very  Important Briefcase that he takes to his Very Important Office where he spends his time signing Very Important Letters and attending Very Important Meetings.

Every lunchtime clutching his Very Important Briefcase he leaves his office to eat his lunch in the park.

One Tuesday however, a baby elephant snatches the briefcase while Mr B is busy thinking important thoughts.

There follows a frantic chase on foot and by tricycle as said briefcase is passed relay style onto the back of an ice-cream trolley and then in the possession of a group of children, onto the fairground’s big wheel, and the bus back through the town to school.

Mr Brown finally catches up with it when the bus stops to disgorge the passengers.

Eventually with darkness falling it’s a very weary tiger that heads home clutching his briefcase. Once there he checks to make sure the contents are safe before heading up to bed for a well-earned rest and some more ‘Very Important Business’ …

But what was inside that briefcase? Now that would be telling and I’m no story spoiler.

Great fun with a wonderful final surprise revelation. Alison Friend’s illustrations are a treat too with plenty of detail and action to engage your little ones as they listen to Lou Peacock’s tongue-in-cheek tale.

Bunnies on the Bus
Philip Ardagh and Ben Mantle
Walker Books

TOOT! TOOT HONK! HONK! Madness and mayhem abound as the bunnies take to the bus one summer’s day in Sunny Town, so the rest of us drivers and pedestrians had better steer well clear as the bunny driver has clearly gone rogue, careering past the bus stops narrowly avoiding the other animals going about their daily business.

The bunnies meanwhile are having a ball aboard FLUFF 1, cavorting down the aisle; there’s even one up on the roof.
Where is this vehicle bound for you may well be wondering as it suddenly leaves the road completely.

No matter, for at the next stop, those bunny passengers instantly set their sights on another mode of transport as they make their exit and err … where one journey ends another begins so to speak …

Anarchic fun for your bouncy little ones created by the terrific Ardagh/ Mantle team whose combination of energetic rhyme (Philip) and cracking illustrations jam-packed with gigglesome details (Ben) is perfect cheering up material.

Board Books and a Squidgy One

Baby’s Very First Faces
illustrated by Jo Lodge
Campbell Books

With its mirror, crinkly pages and high contrast images and patterns, this hand-washable book is just the thing to share with a new baby. It features in turn a daddy, a mummy, and a baby. In case you are reluctant to take it out of your home, there is a Velcro strap that can be attached to a buggy while you’re out and about.

Where’s Baby Chick?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Spring’s well and truly in the air: the ideal time to introduce toddlers to some new life with this latest hide-and-seek book. Tucked away behind the felt flaps on the brightly coloured, patterned spreads are Baby Bunny, Baby Lamb, Baby Kitten and Baby Chick. The final spread contains a mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
Simple interactive delight to share with your little one.

Bake a Rainbow Cake!
Amirah Kassem
Abrams Appleseed
A veritable explosion of colour is the outcome of artistic baker Amirah Kassem’s board book extravaganza.

She gives the essential step-by-step two word instructions at the top of each page, beneath which is a jazzy illustration with either a tab to pull, a wheel to turn or a flap to lift as you ‘Pour it!/ Mix it!/ Colour it! / Bake it!’ and so on until, once the frosting has been applied, it’s time to lavish on the sprinkles and wish. Then turn the page to the final …

Short and VERY sweet! Irresistibly so in fact. Mmm! Yum, yum. Yummy! Second helpings please, will come the cry from the little ones you share this tasty board book with.

Old Macdonald’s Things That Go
Jane Clarke and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow

There’s a whole lot more sounds than moos and baas down on Old MacDonald’s farm: the farmer has a passion for noisy vehicles, by all accounts.
His car vrooms; his tractor chugga-chugga chugs; the combine goes rattle-swish everywhere. He even has a bus that beep-beeps its way around full of jolly animals.

Seemingly he has extensive farmland for there’s a swoosh-swooshing motor boat and it appears he’s fortunate in having a fire truck on hand to deal with accidents of the incendiary kind, ‘nee-nawing’ into action when things get a bit over-heated.

But there’s even more; I’ll let you work out what choo-choos across the fields and what zoom-zoom’s into the air.

Each of Migy Blanco’s jolly digital spreads shows the farmer and his animals joyfully dashing around in one or more of the vehicles, before the two penultimate tongue-twisting spreads, before the 50’s-looking vehicles whizz towards the finish line. If you can actually slow down though, there’s plenty to pore over in every scene.

Jane Clarke’s rowdy spin off from the classic nursery song will surely have little ones giggling as well as singing along. One wonders what else Old Macdonald might have down on that farm of his; or maybe he could take a holiday and experience all manner of seaside sounds.

The Pirates are Coming!

The Pirates are Coming!
John Condon and Matt Hunt
Nosy Crow

Can there be room on the shelf for yet more pirate books? It’s pretty likely as children seem to have a penchant for things piratical; and John Condon and Matt Hunt’s salty offering will definitely be a crowd pleaser.

It tells of young Tom who daily climbs the hill overlooking the sea in the hope of spying a pirate ship; and one day he does – so he thinks.

He rings a bell and all the villagers dash for cover; turns out though, that it’s a case of misidentification. Tom’s dad reminds him pirates have ‘BIG’ ships. Undaunted, Tom continues his daily watch but again and again he gets it wrong, needlessly sending the villagers into hiding.

Unsurprisingly they begin to get blasé and so the next time Tom yells “PIRATES” as he rushes down the hill,

not a single person hides – until that is, they hear the tell-tale “squawk!’ of a parrot.

Here, the tale takes a twist and the finale is a wonderful surprise. I certainly don’t want to be a story spoiler so I’ll leave the villagers in hiding and the pirates sailing silently into the harbour, gangplank at the ready …

John Condon’s story is full of drama, and superbly paced, with plenty of laughs along the way: further laughs will be induced thanks to Matt Hunt’s splendid illustrations. On every spread there’s something giggle worthy – rather, make that several things.

If you enjoy putting on a performance with your story sharing, you’ll absolutely relish reading this one with a group of youngsters and they’ll love it too.

Magnificent Mabel and the Rabbit Riot

Magnificent Mabel and the Rabbit Riot
Ruth Quayle, illustrated by Julia Christians
Nosy Crow

Mabel Chase is a spirited girl. She sees how things ought to be and knows what she wants – kind of. It’s pets that she wants in the first story finding it totally unfair that her parents deny her one. Even more unfair is that Mabel’s big sister is given a pet rabbit, Henry for her birthday and she doesn’t appear very interested in the creature; after just one morning she leaves him behind while she gallivants off to spend her birthday money. Of course, Mabel cannot resist stepping into the caring breech

and pretty soon the place is in chaos. Not only that but she decides to clean out the hutch; this involves using a green fluffy duster that doubles up rather well as a broomstick – uh oh!

The strange thing is Mabel comes out of the whole episode squeaky clean and being showered with praise.

Oh, and she seems to have replaced her penchant for rabbits with a different kind of animal …

There’s another crisis situation in the second story – it happens when Mabel discovers she has suddenly developed a wobbly tooth and she’s anything but keen on the tooth fairy. Time to put her ‘spare time’ dental skills into practice. Despite her best efforts the tooth does eventually fall out and then she has to work out how to deal with that tooth fairy. I’ll leave her pondering the dilemma and merely add that it’s not the only one Mabel faces in this episode.

The third story has Mabel complaining about the unfairness of life AGAIN. Now it’s on account of not having a sprinkler in the garden. However Elsa Kavinsky does have one so perhaps it’s time to work on cultivating their friendship.

Maybe then she’ll let Mabel have a play in hers … This episode has “Pixie Play Date’ in its title but if you want to know how pixies come in you’ll need your own copy of Magnificent Mabel and the Rabbit Riot.

I’d most definitely recommend getting a copy if you have a newly independent reader in your class or family; it would make a super fun book to share too. I love the way it’s presented from Mabel’s viewpoint; she’s a totally endearing narrator and SO good at keeping calm when faced with emergencies. I love too Julia Christians’ plentiful illustrations; she’s captured Mabel’s character splendidly, and those of her family and friends.

This is a series that could run and run.

Little Bird Lands

Little Bird Lands
Karen McCombie
Nosy Crow

‘Fifteen years ago, my mother looked down upon me – cradled and broken in her arms – and made a wish. She wished that I might live, since it seemed likely that I would not.’ So begins Karen McCombie’s sequel to the superbly written Little Bird Flies. (If you’ve not read it you might want to start there.)

The brave, determined Bridie aka Little Bird, and her father and brother Lachlan have now been in the US for two years and are in a snowy copper mining settlement in Michigan. Here they face plenty of challenges: a fever lays Bridie low but happily there’s a woman doctor temporarily lodging with them at Hawk’s Point; the mine in which Lachlan has found work is said to have a Chippewa curse on it, and a ghost of a Chippewa maiden supposedly haunts the entire town.

When Dr Spicer suggests to Bridie that she gets involved in the setting up of a school for the local children and the newcomers, the girl’s initial reluctance at the idea of teaching quickly gives way to excitement and resolve.

The issues of taking land from the Native American peoples, of reservations and of the incomers’ selfishness rear their ugly heads. So too does that of who has the right to the education the doctor and Bridie are offering; as well as the question of whether or not ‘servant’ Easter – as she’s deemed by ‘cocky’ boy, Charlie – and Bridie can become true friends.

Then comes a disaster at the mine causing terrible injuries to many of the workers. Is this remote place ever to feel like home? Especially when Bridie discovers the secret that Easter has been keeping about her mistress for many months …

Later, when she finally understands what Lachlan has been trying to tell her about this ‘mistress’ and comes face to face with her, she realises that the young woman has the knowledge and the power to ruin her life and those of her father and brother all over again …

Totally engrossing throughout: McCombie’s carefully researched, compelling story chronicling Bridie’s experiences as an immigrant, is superbly woven and ultimately uplifting; all its characters really come to life; and there’s SO much to think about.

If you’re searching for a book to offer a confident upper KS2 reader, or want something of a historical nature to share with a class, this is a smasher.

The Monster in the Lake / Unicorn Academy: Isla and Buttercup

Here are the latest stories in two magical series from Nosy Crow

The Monster in the Lake
Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow

We’re back in the magical world Louie Stowell took us to in Dragon in the Library with youngest magician in the world, Kit Spencer. Beneath that library in Book Wood, she’s having ‘spelling’problems. She hasn’t been distracted, her pronunciation was spot on as were her hand gestures; so why, oh why, are her spells going haywire?
Then Kit and her pals learn two things: one: they can understand what the animals they encounter in the park are saying and two: Dogon the delightful dragon dog is poorly, very poorly.

Definitely time for a spot of investigation …

Almost before you can say ‘weird’ the friends find themselves face to face with a strange creature calling itself Lizzie and saying it’s a Lesser Nessie from Scotland.

After a conversation with Lizzie, the friends return to the library and before long they’re embarking on a double rescue undertaking in Scotland, via one the library’s portal books.

Once there they discover a mobile library and its librarian Duncan. Then follows a terrific adventure full of mermaids, ancient curses and much more. It’s dangerous, nail-bitingly tense and absolutely perfectly paced.

Once again Louie Stowell’s telling with its mix of magic, friendship and bookish references works a treat, and with Davide Ortu’s stylish illustrations, the result is another spellbinding foray into the world of Kit, Faith, Josh and Alita.

An absolutely brilliant, unmissable story for primary readers: and what a superb final observation by Faith, “Whatever else changes, whatever threats we face … We will always have books.”

For slightly younger readers:

Unicorn Academy: Isla and Buttercup
Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman
Nosy Crow

Can it really be the 12th visit to the magical Unicorn Academy? I know one girl, now seven, who has lapped up all the stories so far and has been eagerly awaiting this new one. I’m sure she will devour it in a single sitting.

The term is drawing to a close and Isla is eager to graduate along with all the other girls. When her unicorn Buttercup discovers that his magical power is ‘finding magic’ Isla hopes that he’s capable of using this special power to find the evil Ms Willow who has disappeared.

Does 2nd year student Valentina know anything about her whereabouts – she’s certainly acting strangely. Why is she receiving so many letters, and who is sending them?

Once again, teamwork is key in this adventure: Will the girls find the missing teacher; will Isla finally believe in herself and will everyone receive their graduation scroll at the end of term?

Getting Ready for Spring / Make and Bake

Getting Ready for Spring
Kathryn Selbert
Nosy Crow

I’ve no doubt that we’re all looking forward to the arrival of spring. I’ve already seen snowdrops and the occasional primrose but have yet to spot any baby deer like those shown in this sticker storybook created in collaboration with the National Trust; and, inevitably already as I write, the supermarket shelves are stacked with hot cross buns and other Easter fare.

Herein we see a family picnicking beside a lake, children decorating Easter eggs, birds being fed in a garden, spring cleaning on a rainy April day.

There are more preparations for Easter, a family visit to a farm, the children bake Easter treats with Grandma and when the festival day arrives there’s an egg hunt and an Easter parade.

The final pages comprise a ‘Can you spot?’ feature with over 30 items to find in the preceding spreads, and 3 pages of stickers to add to the named pages.

Seasonal fun to engage little ones and there’s plenty of interest to discuss on each of Kathryn Selbert’s main spreads.

If your opportunities to get outside with youngsters are limited in this unpredictable weather, then this book will help them anticipate the delights of what is to come in the next two or three months.

Also useful on days when the weather tends to keep youngsters inside is:

Make and Bake
illustrated by various artists
Oxford University Press

This is part of the OUP ‘Read with Oxford’ series that uses ‘step-by-step’ stages and is phonic based. Many readers of my blog will know that I’m anything but a fan of the approach to reading that underlies this way of learning to read. However, this non-fiction title offers six fun activities for those in the early stages of becoming readers.

Young children can, guided by the six sections make frog cards (and paper plate animals that could become puppets – children can think up their own animals too);

enjoy some pancake making (with an adult); create a sock goblin hand puppet; find out something about growing foods you might eat on a picnic; discover how to grow strawberries and eventually make ‘Strawberry Mess’ and enjoy eating same; the final part, ‘Snack Attack’ is about what constitutes a healthy snack. Readers follow two characters who visit a market and on their return, make the snacks using what they bought.

Also included are simple activities such as matching animal pictures with their names; sequencing instructions, sorting, unjumbling letter sequences to make food words and a word search. A mix of photographs and illustrations by various artists

help make everything clear.

Superhero Gran

Superhero Gran
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow

Timothy Knapman children’s author, playwright and lyricist teams up with illustrator Joe Berger for I think, their seventh in the Superhero family series.

Most young children I know think their grans are amazing humans and so it is with the gran in this story.

No she doesn’t fly through the air, battle villains, control minds or wield an indestructible shield; instead she makes the days her grandchildren spend in her company the very best possible.

Her house is full of exciting paraphernalia for creating disguises.

Her stories are enthralling, the Tickle Monster Test tale being the very best of all. especially when accompanied by tasty cookies.

Unlike mum and dad, she doesn’t put a limit on the consumption of these treats.

As for her garden, it’s blooming brilliant and great for games of hide-and-seek; moreover she knows when, at the crucial time her grandchildren want to stay, to make a call to Mum and Dad suggesting the little ones remain with her for a sleepover.

Super powers indeed; and what a thoroughly heart-warming, vibrant celebration, verbal and visual, of a loving grandmother.

It’s just perfect for grans and little ones to enjoy reading together.

Board Book Delights

Both Walker Books and Nosy Crow publish smashing board books – here are some of the latest:

Little Baby’s Busy Day
Little Baby’s Playtime

Nick Sharratt and Sally Symes
Walker Books

These ‘Finger Wiggle Books’ are full of adorable babies doing everyday things, the action being supplied by inserting a finger through the two die-cut holes that go from cover to cover in each book.

Busy Day portrays wake up time, breakfast, looking smart ready to go out, shopping, having a wee, inviting a tummy tickle, a sudsy bathtime and finally, arms extended for a bedtime cuddle. Nick Sharratt supplies the bright jolly visuals in his unmistakeable bubbly style and Sally Symes has created the brief rhyming ‘One little baby … Wiggle wiggle … ‘ narrative.

Little Baby’s Playtime opens with travelling in a sling, then moves to a playground swing, a wizz down a ‘slippery slide’, a tricycle ride, a dig in a sandpit, a game of peek-a-boo, excitement at the sight of a butterfly and finishes with a farewell wave.

Terrific for sharing; and with their patterned text and inviting scenes, these two spell out loud and clear to tinies that all important ‘books are fun’ message.

If You’re Happy and You Know It!
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

This addition to the ever -popular ‘Sing along with me!’ series is another established nursery favourite. Here the main characters are bears with other creatures playing the bit parts. We first see the bears cooking together, after which they go out shopping together before returning home. Then small bear then goes out to meet some friends.

As they sing along, little ones can use their fingers to make the small bear clap, stamp, nod and on the final spread, reveal his friends and everyone can join in with the “we are” finale.

There’s a bar code to scan which will provide a version of the song to sing along to. With its cute illustrations, this will become a favourite in the series, I suspect.

Seasonal Junior Fiction

The Naughtiest Unicorn at Christmas
Pip Bird, illustrated by David O’Connell
Egmont

It’s time to don those festive jumpers and get ready to join Mira and her friends along with their UBFFs (unicorn best friends forever) in the week before Christmas.

Mira hopes that she and her unicorn Dave will be given the lead roles in the school play The Legend of the Snow Unicorn.

In the meantime here’s a question asked by her friend Darcy: “What goes RAINBOW thump, RAINBOW thump, RAINBOW thump, RAINBOW thump?

It’s Dave rolling down a snowy hill entangled in the long rainbow scarf, teacher Miss Glitterhorn was endeavouring to wrap around him. And following this spectacle said unicorn merely snorts and produces an enormous frozen poo. Not a very promising start when the auditions for that all important play are to be held imminently.

Inevitably things get increasingly chaotic when Dave is involved and yes the play does eventually take place, but as to who are the star performers – the best way to find out about the drama that’s performed is to get your hands on a copy of this fourth episode of high jinks Mira and Dave style.

As usual David O’Connell livens things up even more with his smashing black and white illustrations.

Princess of Pets: The Snowy Reindeer
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

In her latest adventure Princess Bea is excited to be staying with her Great Aunt Sylvia but she really wishes that her snowy castle had some animals she might make friends with.
Then when out playing in the snow she discovers a little lost reindeer, despite her aunt’s residence being a humans only place, Bea knows she simply has to get the creature safely inside the castle.

Having done so though her challenges have only just begun, for party preparations are underway and she needs something to keep her new friend in, not to mention food. Then cousin Annie discovers Marshmallow, as the reindeer is now called, but Bea is determined to keep his presence a secret from the grown-ups – no easy task as the animal has a mischievous streak and a voracious appetite. When rule-abiding big sister Natasha too learns of the visitor things get even more tricky.

Can Bea ever manage to reunite Marshmallow with his family?

I know a good many fans of the series who will be lapping up this wintry episode in the life of animal helper extraordinaire, aka Princess Beatrice. Olivia Chin Mueller’s numerous illustrations add to the enjoyment of young solo readers.

Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures
Laura Ellen Anderson
Egmont

Amelia and her best friends are spending a couple of days at the chilly Yeti Mountain Pits where Florence’s Grand-Yeti Clemence is celebrating her 350th birthday. Florence is a terrific character and it’s good to see more of her in this story. As for Amelia though, she badly wants to attend two parties over the weekend and tries her best to find an opportunity to break the news to her that she can only spend one night at Clemence’s birthday bash.

With the party in full swing precious things start disappearing

and then, even worse, the pits themselves and thus the homes of the yetis start to collapse. Before long comes a declaration from the Unicorn Detectives: Yeti Mountain Pits are not safe and need to be evacuated.

With a mystery to solve, Amelia and her friends need to move fast but very carefully or risk being trapped forever underground.

Fast paced this story surely is, and cleverly woven into the zany plot is a key message about friendship: ‘Make new friends but keep the old’ as the song goes. This is something that Florence’s Grand-Yeti Clemence and Amelia have a heart-to-heart about during the party and is later discussed by Florence and Amelia.

Terrific fun and thought-provoking too: Amelia enthusiasts will relish this mix of warmth and ‘yuck’ provoking disgustingness. No matter if readers haven’t read the previous books in the series, they can still enjoy this one, but better still start from the beginning and work through all the adventures giggling at all Laura’s wonderful illustrations along the way.

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas
Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow

Tracey and Sarah’s version of the classic poem offers an utterly delightful new twist in the character of a little mouse.

Tracey cleverly interweaves occasional lines from Clement Clark Moore in her rhyming narrative that tells of Mouse’s Christmas Eve adventure which all begins when he makes a wish in front of the festive Christmas tree that stands in the hall. For as we hear, there actually is a creature stirring in this particular house. And having done so and made that wish he encounters a lost Santa who is more than grateful to have him act as guide for the remainder of his round.

When the deliveries are done, it’s time for Mouse and Santa to part company but Santa hasn’t forgotten his tiny helper’s wish: he gives Mouse not one but two presents and a map …

Could it be that not just one but two tiny creatures are to have their Christmas wishes fulfilled?

Beautifully told – Tracey’s text is sheer pleasure to read aloud – and Sara’s illustrations with all those gorgeous details – despite the snowy landscapes, positively radiate all that’s warm about Christmas.

Share with little ones at home snuggled up with hot chocolate, as well as in foundation stage settings and expect requests of ‘again’ as soon as you try to close the covers. Tracey and Sarah’s little Mouse is an adorable character.

Board Book Christmas

Just Right for Christmas
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

A board book version of a Christmas favourite from a few years ago unfolods over two days.

It begins on a snowy Christmas Eve with the king walking around the market. His purchase of a roll of beautiful red cloth to make a cloak for his daughter results in the left-over scraps of fabric being placed outside the back door.  Jenny the kitchen maid finds them and makes  a jacket for her ma. The remaining scraps are turned into a hat for Bertie Badger’s pa, then gloves for Samuel Squirrel’s wife and a scarf for Milly Mouse’s little one, and all just in time for Christmas Day.

A warm, feel-good story ‘… just how Christmas should feel’ celebrating the pleasures of giving, made all the more so with Rosalind Beardshaw’s, mixed media illustrations that help stitch the narrative together beautifully.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In this board book, using two enchanting elf characters and her trademark die-cut collage style illustrations, Britta Teckentrup presents a favourite seasonal song aimed at the very youngest listeners. As the song progresses, one verse per spread, the gift is revealed through the cut out. Then on the fourth day additional die-cuts are used to accommodate the 4 colly birds and so on until the eleventh day. On day twelve all the gifts are revealed around the tree on the recto while in the bottom corner on the verso the elves give each other a Christmas kiss.

Just right for tiny hands and there’s plenty of counting fun to be had too.

Wake up, Santa!
illustrated by Pintachan
Words & Pictures

With cleverly designed paper engineering and digital illustrations, this bright, jolly interactive board book will get little ones and their sharers in festive mood as they waken in turn Santa, the elves, Rudolph and a teddy bear.

There are things to find, name, count and talk about all in a tiny, fun-filled ‘Little Faces’ package.

Christmas is Awesome!
Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters go to town to demonstrate the veracity of their latest board book’s title.

Popping with neon pink, Eunice provides lively scenes of assorted animals getting into the festive spirit with ‘twinkling lights, silent nights, being nice ‘(of course) and much more.

Humorous touches abound with ‘ugly sweaters’, a dachshund sporting one such takes the opportunity to get beneath the mistletoe and bestow a long-tongued lick upon the cat’s beaming countenance; and don’t miss the lump of coal getting in on the act by knitting itself a sweater from ‘darkest black abyss’ yarn. And the nativity scene is priceless: Mary and Joseph are two birds looking benevolently upon their newborn baby Jesus – a haloed egg.

Sabrina’s rhyming narrative orchestrates the celebrations concluding thus: ‘Joy and kindness, love and fun, Christmas is for everyone!’ Their portrayal is certainly a whole lot of fun.

Busy Reindeer
illustrated by Samantha Meredith
Campbell Books

As an adult reads the rhyming couplets, little fingers can manipulate the sliders to activate Santa’s reindeer Ruby, then watch the sleigh take flight over a snowy landscape, help Santa down the chimney and finally, open the stable door for him to thank and bid goodnight to his number one helper. All of this is illustrated in Samantha Meredith’s bright, jolly scenes of a busy Christmas delivery round.

Snow Still / Flip Flap Frozen

Here are two decidedly shivery offerings from Nosy Crow Books

Snow Still
Holly Surplice
Nosy Crow

A young fawn experiences the world while taking its first steps in a snowy landscape.

Told through a sequence of rhyming couplets beginning ‘Snow white. // Snow slide. // Snow chase. //Snow hide. and gorgeous visuals, we follow the little creature through a series of beautiful watercolour scenes that show a game with rabbits; an encounter with a group of perching birds; an owl gliding high overhead across a silent empty plain;

a squirrel curled up in the hollow of a tree … and finally as the fawn struggles with the extra depth of a further snowfall, we meet the adult deer ready and waiting to provide a warm safe haven for their little one.

I love all the different perspectives used and how the seeming simplicity of the words allows the visual landscapes plenty of space to convey the beauty and starkness of the countryside – its woodlands with the berries all aglow, the umbel seed heads a-sparkle with touches of silver, and the vastness of the open field. (This is some of the best use of silver highlighting that I’ve seen in a picture book certainly this season).

Lyrical and lovely; a beautiful book to share with the very young on a chilly winter’s day.

Flip Flap Frozen
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow

There’s a decidedly icy feel to the latest in Axel’s terrific Flip Flap series.

Readers can discover what happens when a polar bear is crossed with a walrus (you get a polrus), or a reindeer with an orca (a reinca – naturally!) and a host of other brilliantly bonkers species as they play around with the spit pages.

Samuel experimenting with combinations

Of course if you play it straight then Axel’s animals have provided factual rhyming descriptions about themselves and they even accompany them with their characteristic sounds.

Guaranteed hours of fun whether consumed solo or with the help of an obliging adult reading the main text and a youngster making the noises and flipping the flaps.

Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Snow Goose / Unicorn Academy: Violet and Twinkle

Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Snow Goose
Anne Booth, illustrated by Rosie Butcher
Oxford University Press

There’s trouble in the Magical Kingdom of Birds: the amazing Silver Snow Goose normally appears to open the Winter Festival and the snow geese then start to migrate south for winter but this year there’s no sign of him, so winter cannot come.

Uncle Astor is causing problems again. He’s furious at not being  guest of honour at the festival and this is the result.

Can Keeper of the Book, Maya, and her friends, uncover the whereabouts of the missing snow goose, and bring winter to the kingdom, even if it means Maya taking her longest ever flight?

With the popular mix of magic and bird facts, Anne Booth’s Maya and her new adventure will certainly please her numerous already established followers and she’ll no doubt win new enthusiasts with this wintry tale. Rosie Butcher’s black and white illustrations and beautiful borders are likely to seduce readers whether or not they’re familiar with the series.

There’s plenty of magic too in

Unicorn Academy: Violet and Twinkle
Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman
Nosy Crow

Can it really be the 11th adventure set in the school where magic is part and parcel of the pupils’ lives?

Violet is eager to graduate from Unicorn Academy along with all her friends. First though she needs to bond with her unicorn Twinkle and becoming true friends with this creature inclined to put his hoof in it when he speaks and thus hurt other people’s feelings isn’t straightforward.

What’s more he doesn’t really listen to Violet or think about what she wants to do.

In the meantime there’s the identity of the cloaked figure to be discovered.

Her unmasking precipitates an alarming event that sees Violet and Twinkle cascading towards the Frozen Lagoon where almost before you can say ‘binding spell’ they find themselves taken prisoner.

Can Twinkle discover his magic and save not only the two of them, but also all the friends who come searching for the missing pair? A very daring rescue is called for.

Certainly for young solo readers, the magic still holds good.

Earth Heroes

Earth Heroes
Lily Dyu
Nosy Crow

In this timely book from travel journalist Lily Dyu we meet twenty individuals – conservationists and inventors from around the globe who are actively engaged in their work to save the world, to counter climate change and save its humans and our precious wildlife.

Familiar names such as Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough and Stella McCartney are present, and we read fascinating information about their backgrounds and what set them on their paths.

Alongside these are less well-known people whose work is also inspiring: these include Mohammed Rezan, architect of floating schools in Bangladesh; Isabel Soares from Portugal a pioneer of cutting down food waste by persuading people to use ‘Fruit Feia (ugly fruit)

and the ingenious Chewang Norphel who was responsible for the building of artificial glaciers in Ladakh that have transformed thousands of lives.

Great for individual reading or classroom use, Lily Dyu’s engaging text is readable and pitched just right for its intended audience of young readers and cover designer Jackie Lay has provided splendidly designed art with a relevant and inspiring quote to introduce each entry.

Lily’s final words speak to us all ‘ … we need to fight for the planet we love. The future is ours for the making. You too can change the world.’ A powerful rallying cry for sure.

Board Book Miscellany

Goodnight, Rainbow Cats
Barbara Castro Urio
Chronicle Books

The setting is a big white house wherein sleeps Little Red Cat. How do we know this? Because on the recto we see a die-cut window coloured red, while opposite on the verso is a Little Green Cat about to cross the book’s gutter and enter the door of the house. And the text bids ‘Goodnight, Little Red Cat.’

When the page is turned it’s evident that the Little Green Cat is now inside and Little Yellow Cat (from the verso) will be next to enter.

All the while the narration is presented in a conversational style above the awaiting cat. For instance we read, ‘Up to a room in the big white house!/ Goodnight, Little Yellow Cat. / Look who is waiting outside. / It’s Little Brown Cat! / Where are you going, / Little Brown Cat?’ (Each new cat is introduced with its own colour font which will help little ones predict what colour window will appear next in the house.)

When all twelve cats are safely indoors and asleep in the big white house it’s time to bid ‘Goodnight, rainbow cats!’A fun bedtime wind down for little humans and one that’s sufficiently strongly built to stand up to the frequent readings youngsters will likely insist on.

A to Z Menagerie
Suzy Ultman
Chronicle Books

With wonderfully quirky illustrations some of which have lovely touches (the horse wears ‘high-tops’) Suzy Ultman has created a distinctive board book picture dictionary with a pullout tab highlighting each letter.

Every page features one letter that fills up with colour when its tab (placed halfway down the edge) is pulled; for instance the C becomes a caterpillar and O an owl.

The vocabulary is interesting and will likely introduce young users of the book to new words such as axolotyl, challah, iguana, pennant and zooplankton, as well as including some vocabulary you might expect.

The whole alphabet is introduced by a page inviting little ones to “look and touch’ and there’s a concluding A to Z asking users to choose a favourite discovery.
Idiosyncratic, gently educational and great fun.

Now for two Nosy Crow titles new in board book format both of which were smashing picture books previously featured on this blog:

Neon Leon
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup

A book about a chameleon that’s great for audience participation and features colours, counting, camouflage and different environments.

There’s a Bear on My Chair
Ross Collins

This features a little mouse upon whose chair a huge bear has placed his bottom and it’s clearly going to be a difficult task to get him to shift it. So much so that the little rodent narrator decides that the only solution is to quit the scene and let his paws take him elsewhere.
Wonderfully droll illustrations and a superb monologue in a small package for small hands.

At the Beach, On the Farm, In the Forest, Under the Ocean
illustrated by Nancy Bevington
Catch a Star Books

Four Can You Find? board books designed to encourage the very youngest to learn new words are illustrated by Nancy Bevington. Her brightly coloured, amusing images of animals, plants and the occasional human are clearly labelled.

Of the eight double spreads in each book, the first seven are introduced by a sentence such as ‘Under the ocean there are …’, or ‘At the beach there is … ‘ and the final one asks ‘Can you find all the things under the … ? inviting users to turn back and look again at the previous pages.

Adults/infants can play other games such as finding all the things with wheels in the Farm book; there’s plenty of potential for extending the use of each book depending on the interest of the little one involved.

The Best Kind of Bear / Keith among the Pigeons

The Best Kind of Bear
Greg Gormley and David Barrow
Nosy Crow

We first meet Bear sitting in the library trying to find out what kind of bear he is.

When a little girl Nelly, comes in and asks him the very same question he sets out on a journey of self-discovery. “Maybe there’s a bear out there who can help me,” he says.

Travelling west he meets, deep in the forest a big brown grizzly bear who tells Bear he loves ‘nice long naps’. So too does our identity seeker but he definitely does not want to sleep for the next six months and with the ‘funny little stitches’ on his tummy that Grizzly Bear points out, he knows he can’t possibly be a grizzly.

Thereafter Bear visits a polar bear in the north, a spectacled bear in the south, and finally, a Sun Bear in the east.

Each encounter only confirms what Bear is not so he decides to go home.

In the library Nelly is waiting. It’s a very dispirited Bear who enters admitting that he’s no further forward. He knows what he isn’t, but not what he is: I’m just ordinary, he concludes.

Then Nelly draws his attention to his unique features – the ‘funny little stitches … washing label on his bottom,’ soft bounciness and smart bow tie; she invites him to be her bear and … then he knows that’s the ‘very best kind of bear to be.’

Greg Gormley’s wonderfully warm story is essentially a tale of identity and belonging and with David Barrow’s superbly expressive, smudgy ursine scenes that are an absolute delight from first to last, this is a book to read and re-read over and over, perhaps with small children cuddled up with their very own special bears.

Keith among the Pigeons
Katie Brosnan
Child’s Play

When is a cat not a cat? That is the question; and the answer? Perhaps, when he is Keith.

Like other cats, Keith has a predilection for pigeons, spending much of his time observing them. Not with the intention of catching the feathered creatures; rather he wants to be a pigeon himself. His feline acquaintances certainly don’t rate him highly as a member of the feline fraternity.

His avian efforts however meet with little success until he hits upon an idea …

Foolproof it might be, but water proof – er?? …
Perhaps after all, it’s best to stick to honing one’s feline skills.

Or is there perhaps another solution that allows Keith to feel happy in his own furry skin.

This reviewer is ailurophobic but despite this, couldn’t help but fall for Keith. His’ ‘hi-coos’ are a hoot; I love his poster creating,

note taking and his sheer determination to be more pigeon. And he certainly gets across the message that being ourselves is what really matters.

Step Inside Homes Through History / Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery

Step Inside Homes Through History
Goldie Hawk and Sarah Gibb
Nosy Crow

Most readers of this book will recognise many of the features of the contemporary house illustrated herein, and those who are as old as this reviewer will recognise some of the rather garish décor shown in the sixties home. How many though, unless they are members of the National Trust or have a special interest in the topic, will know what living in a Late Middle Ages manor house or a Tudor mansion was like?

Three double spreads each, explore seven periods in time from the mid 13th century through to the present day.
Intricately detailed laser-cut pages show us not only the particular residence outside

and in, but also the fashions, family life and furniture of the period.

You can have fun tracing the evolution of the bathroom from the medieval gardrobes – ‘a bench over a big hole which went outside the house’

to the Georgian chamber pot beneath the bed, the new Victorian indoor flushing toilet through to the present day en-suite bathrooms that many of us have. Also fun is the ‘spot the artefact’ feature where readers are asked to find a named item of furniture or small object in each house.

Full of interesting snippets of information, this well-illustrated book is worth buying for a classroom collection, or if you intend visiting a stately home or historic house, whether or not it belongs to the National Trust, Nosy Crow’s collaborators for this title.

Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery
Jake Williams
Pavilion Books

Following his Really Remarkable Reptiles, illustrator/designer Jake Williams has created another fascinating, stylishly illustrated book, this time about the naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin famous for his epic voyages of adventure on HMS Beagle and his theory of evolution ‘On the Origin of Species’.

The amazing creatures both large and small that Darwin saw during his explorations (some of which we see larger than life illustrated herein) furnished a wealth of detailed notes and drawings, observation data and fossil specimens; and readers can follow in the footsteps of the famous biologist as he travels the world for five years as the Beagle ship’s biologist sailing from England to the Cape Verde islands, from Brazil to the Galapagos and from Tahiti to Australia and finally, back home.

There’s a wealth of information about such things as the ‘cracker’ butterflies of Brazil;

how Darwin unearthed the skull of a giant ground sloth in Argentina and the steamer ducks he observed in the Falklands,

as well as maps showing the Beagle’s progress.

Recommended for all those with enquiring minds, this is a beautifully produced book that highlights the importance that careful observation makes in the furtherance of scientific discovery.

Speedy Monkey / An Owl Called Star

Speedy Monkey
Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Chantelle & Burgen Thorne
Stripes

Speedy Monkey, like many young humans is bursting with energy and inquisitiveness. Nothing wrong with that except that the other rainforest creatures think that his constant capering is way too lively and noisy; peace and quiet is what they crave.

Speedy’s efforts to be more like them are a dismal failure and none of them has any desire to emulate the little monkey.

Come nightfall, as the animals try to sleep, Bat suggests if Speedy wants to do what he was born to do he should go to the  edge of the forest, climb to the top of the Kapok tree and … “Everyone will love you for it.”

Speedy does just that, but being completely alone is no fun at all.
Suddenly a really fierce storm approaches and Speedy knows that he has to warn his fellow animals of the danger.

There’s no time to lose, but will they heed his warning?

Happily yes, but once they’re all safely gathered in Bat’s cave, one creature is notable by his absence …

Jeanne Willis’s telling is as lively and full of fun as her protagonist in this latest addition to the Stripes’ series of full colour fiction for new solo readers. Also exuding liveliness are Chantelle and Burgen Thorne’s funny, spirited illustrations of Speedy and his fellow rainforest dwellers.

For those ready for a longer read is

An Owl Called Star
Helen Peters, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon
Nosy Crow

This is the eighth story about Jasmine and her best friend Tom. Here the two are out walking with Jasmine’s sheepdog when he disappears and in their hunt for him, they come upon an injured barn owl in some brambles and they name it Star.

With the help of Jasmine’s mum, the owl gradually regains its strength; but barn owls are hunters that love to feed on small mammals and Jasmine has also offered to look after Aisha’s hamster for the weekend. Is it wise to keep both cages in the same room? Not only that but she’s also planning a secret Halloween party. It looks as though she might just have taken on rather more than she can cope with, especially when the hamster goes missing after Jasmine forgets to secure the door of his cage, and then Mum declares that Star is ready to be released.

Readers, especially animal lovers, will lap up this story and along the way learn a fair bit about barn owls from the information Helen Piers has skilfully woven into her narrative. Ellie Snowden’s detailed pencil drawings that break up the text are a delight.

Flaps, Frights and Fun for Little Ones

Where’s Mrs Bear?
Where’s Mrs Witch?

Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

The two new additions to the deservedly popular hide-and-seek series that uses a simple repeat question and answer pattern are terrific fun. Using shaped felt flaps and a final mirror, tinies can enjoy discovering the whereabouts of several woodland animals in the former before being confronted, thanks to the hidden mirror, by their own image beneath the flap on the final spread.
The second title has a distinct Halloween theme with a skeleton, a spider, a vampire and Mrs Witch to find as well as enjoying a spot of self-revelation beneath the ghost.
Engaging, spot on interactive entertainment and unobtrusive learning for the very youngest.
Talking of Halloween …

 

Monsters Come Out Tonight!
Frederick Glasser and Edward Miller
Abrams Appleseed

There surely are all manner of ghastlies and ghoulies lurking behind the flaps in this jaunty rhyming, mock scary book. There are witches combing their locks, Frankenstein showing off his new sporty trainer boots, Dracula brushing his fangs and ghosties sporting bow ties and top hats. What is the purpose of all this titivating, you might be wondering. The final fold out spread reveals all.

Little human monsters can enjoy some monstrously shivery, door-opening fun herein.

Farmblock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

The latest of the popular block series takes us down on the farm where little ones can follow the two children through a day’s work as well as the seasonal activities that take place.
The cock crows, the children do their round, collecting eggs from the hens, carrying compost and then bathing the dog after a stinky roll in the muck, help with the milking and feeding the pigs. It’s harvest time so they stop for a lunchtime picnic in the field before picking baskets of rosy apples for pie-making .
There are pumpkins to carve, and later on a celebratory thanksgiving feast.
Winter brings the frost and snow; Mum chops wood and they make sure the animals and birds have enough to eat before heading home for toasted marshmallows by the fire.
At last it’s spring and with it come baby lambs and seed planting.
When summer arrives there’s grass cutting and baling, berry picking, and jam making ready for the farmers’ market.

As is characteristic of the series, this one has gatefolds, die-cut pages and plenty to enjoy in team Peskimo’s attractive illustrations.

Yum Yummy Yuck
Cree Lane and Amanda Jane Jones
Prestel

Here’s a very simply illustrated board book that offers a fun way to show toddlers what is fine to consume and what definitely isn’t.

Using the titular patterned text followed by a ‘don’t put in your mouth’ item that is explained simply, such as ‘If you try to eat sand … you’ll immediately regret it’;’ or ‘Coins don’t go in your tummy, they go in your piggy bank!’ accompanied by simple stylised images of such items as ice-cream, fruit, vegetables as well as crayons, bogies, soap and toothpaste.

Having shared this, adults might collect items from around the kitchen and play a ‘yum’ ‘yucky’ game with their tinies using a thumbs up/thumbs down action to reinforce the idea.

Heidi

Heidi
Retold by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Briony May Smith
Nosy Crow

Jeanne Willis retells the Johanna Spyri classic tale for a slightly younger audience than the original book. I remember totally loving the story of the orphan Heidi as a child and was fascinated to learn of this new version.

It’s a beautiful gift edition in Nosy Crow’s Classics series and both author and illustrator have done a cracking job making the story more accessible while retaining the spirit of the original.

When her Aunt Dete takes her to live with her grandfather, the spirited Heidi quickly makes friends with Peter the goat boy, and soon softens her Grandpa’s heart – Grandpa Alps as he’s known by the villagers.

She spends a happy two years in his mountain home; but then comes the devastating news. Heidi is to go to Frankfurt to act as companion to little Clara, the sickly daughter of a rich man there. So says her aunt Dete who turns up one day and whisks her away insisting it’s “the chance of a lifetime.”

Miss Rottenmeier is a veritable dragon of a woman and Heidi finds it hard living so far from her beloved mountain home, despite getting on well with Clara,

so much so that she starts sleepwalking.

After a while the doctor suggests that the only cure for her is to let her return to her Grandpa. But what will happen to her new friend, Clara; will they ever meet again?

If you’re looking for a book for a developing reader and want to introduce them to the delights of Heidi, Jeanne Willis’ splendid telling really brings the characters to life and Bryony’s finely detailed illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.

Bedtime for Albie / What Will You Dream of Tonight?

Bedtime for Albie
Sophie Ambrose
Walker Books

Little Albie warthog is one of those annoying creatures that are still full of surplus energy when it’s time for bed.
To delay the inevitable he bounds off in search of other animals to join him in some further frolicking before he succumbs to snuggle time. But the cheetahs,

elephants, and meercats have already begun their sleep-time routines and have no immediate interest in the racing, splish-splashing and digging Albie suggests, so play by himself. he must.

Dusk falls bringing with it all sorts of unfamiliar sounds and then as the stars begin to twinkle, Albie accepts Owl’s “Shouldn’t you be in bed?’ and it’s his ‘mummy’ not playmates that he wants.
Happily the hippos are ready to assist him home just in time for the best part of his bedtime ritual; and suddenly all the others want to join in the fun.

Sophie Ambrose’s wide-eyed animals are absolutely adorable: this is a bedtime book that could easily become part of a fair few little humans’ pre-sleep rituals so I suggest you emulate Albie and ‘skippety trot trit trot’ off to get hold of a copy to share.

What Will You Dream of Tonight?
Frances Stickley and Anuska Allepuz
Nosy Crow

A lilting, almost hypnotic rhyming narrative that talks straight to the young child at bedtime offers all kinds of wondrous dream possibilities.

An ocean dream might have you sailing atop a whale’s tail; on the beach there’s a wrecked ship to explore. Or what about a rocket trip to outer space and the chance to catch your very own star.

Maybe the chance to visit the jungle; take a ride on a polar bear’s back under the sparkling Arctic lights or fly your very own plane above the desert plains would be more fun.

You’d need to be brave and very quiet to enter the lair where a sleeping dragon guards his treasure so perhaps the opportunity to float gently down a woodland stream would be more appealing.

No matter what or where, there’s nothing to fear when you’re tucked safely in bed – so says the mother as she kisses goodnight her daughter.

With gorgeous spreads of each scenario by Anuska Allepuz, this is just right for sending little ones off into the land of nod. Sweet dreams!

Wild Lives

Wild Lives
Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh
Nosy Crow

Subtitled 50 Extraordinary Animals that Made History, this large book celebrates animals large and small that deserve to be remembered for all time.

They are grouped together under category headings: Rescue & Protect, Adventure & Explore, Change & Solve, Discover & Pioneer and Inspire & Influence.

I’m ashamed to say that many of these amazing animals and their feats have passed me by. Not though, thanks to Michael Morpurgo’s book Running Wild based on their escape, Ning Nong the elephant that saved the life of a little girl staying in Phuket in the 2004 tsunami.

The first creature in the same opening section is Cher Ami a homing pigeon that towards the end of the First World War managed to withstand bullet injuries to her breast, leg and eye to deliver a crucial message about a battalion of American soldiers who were unknowingly being attacked by their own men. In the same section is Wojtek, an ursine member of the Polish army during WW2 when, standing on his hind legs he carried onto the battlefield vital heavy boxes of bullets and bombs.

Many people know about Laika the space dog but how many know of Montauciel the sheep that also took flight, in a hot-air balloon no less? I certainly didn’t.

Because of Dianne Hofmeyr’s picture book Zeraffa Giraffa, I was familiar with the story of Zaraffa the giraffe that was sent from Egypt in the early C19th to Paris as a gift for the King of France. These animals are remembered in the Adventure & Explore section.

Again on account of a picture book, My Name is Bob, by James Bowen whose life was changed by the stray feline that befriended him, I knew of Streetcat Bob, celebrated in the Change & Solve section. It’s thanks to this fascinating section too that I learnt about another dog that changed a life forever. Endal, became an assistance dog to a wounded naval officer, Allen, and subsequently won a gold medal for bravery when Allen was hit by a car and knocked out of his wheelchair. The dog was able to move him to a safe position, run to a hotel close by and raise the alarm. Incredible.

Other animals whose stories are part of this fascinating book have had an influence on how we relate to the natural world, or have enhanced our understanding of social interaction and behaviour. Some including the dog Hackiko, Keiko the orca whale (Free Willy), Elsa the Lioness and Seabiscuit the champion racehorse have become film stars.

Every spread includes Sarah Walsh’s empathetic illustrations along with archive photos and sometimes, relevant documents; and each has a  quotation from a person, a press cutting or perhaps a TV programme.

The book ends with a world map showing where each of the fifty animals was born, annotated with a postage stamp size portrait  and a glossary.

Engrossing and enlightening Ben Lerwill’s first book for children will delight animal lovers of all ages.

Love You Always / Mama’s Work Shoes

Love You Always
Frances Stickley and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow

There’s a definite autumnal feel to this book portraying the loving bond between a mother hedgehog and her son Hoglet but despite the little hedgehog’s occasional shivers as the two creatures wander home through the woods, this is a warm-hearted tale.

Hoglet notices the season changing and his mother explains that … change makes nature lovlier with every passing day.’ Hoglet then asks, “Mummy … / would you love me more…if I changed?”

As they encounter other mother-child animals – dashing squirrels, fluttering dragonflies, bouncing frogs, fluffy rabbits,

Hoglet asks his question again and on each occasion gets the same response ’I couldn’t love you more’.

Just before they reach home, Hoglet raises the all important “But, Mummy… will love always last forever, / even if I change just like the seasons or the weather?” And as little humans will be eagerly anticipating, her “Always” promise of unchanging love acts as sufficient reassurance to allow her offspring to curl up and having repeated her final ‘Always’ to fall fast asleep.

With its combination of Frances Stickley’s soft-spoken, pleasingly constructed rhyming narrative that mostly works, and Migy Blanco’s richly hued scenes of the autumnal countryside, this is a lovely bedtime story for parent humans and their little ones to snuggle up together with and share just before bedtime.

Mama’s Work Shoes
Caron Lewis and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Little Perry’s mum has a plethora of shoes, a pair for every occasion and Perry knows them well: the ‘swish-swush’ ones for indoors, the ‘zip-zup’ ones for running and skipping, ‘flip-flop’ ones for sunny days and those that go ‘pat put’ in puddles.

One morning Mum puts on a new pair of shoes that go ‘click-clack, click-clack’. They sound interesting but what could they be for, wonders Perry.
When she discovers they signal the start of a new routine that means she and her Mum are to spend time away from one another, Perry is not happy.

Left with her Nan, the child lets her feelings out with a tantrum.

Eventually of course, Mum comes to collect her and back home they go where eventually Mum’s explanation finally reassures her little one that yes those clickity-clack shoe sounds will take her to work but they’ll always bring her back as fast as ever she can.

With Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s bright mixed media illustrations capturing Perry’s changing emotions, Caron Levis’ story will reassure the very young who like little Perry are faced with a parent returning to work.

A Forest’s Seasons / Apple / Who’s Hiding on Safari? & Who’s Hiding in the Jungle?

A Forest’s Seasons
Ingela P. Arrhenius
Chronicle Books

This tiny, chunky board book comprises just six pages, each differently shaped, showing the seasonal changes in a forest. ‘Spring brings babies and blooms’ we read, whereas summer is alive with different greens; in autumn we see fungi and a predominance of orange and browns while in winter the landscape is blanketed in white.

A delight for small hands and a lovely introduction to the idea that nature is cyclic.

Apple
Nikki McClure
Abrams Appleseed

Essentially what is the life cycle of an apple but interspersed with human interaction is presented in just fourteen words, – a single one per spread – opposite one of McClure’s signature style black and white cut outs. The apple being the only red, in each composition makes it stand out.

In autumn an apple falls from the tree; it’s collected and put into a sack with others.

Back at home, a little girl watches her mother cutting the apples and seizing her chance takes one (SNEAK) and pops it into the school bag and off she goes to school. Intending to consume it later she begins playing and the apple lies forgotten.

Eventually it rots, is composted and finally in spring we see it’s sprouting into a new tree.

There’s a final explanatory page reminding readers that ‘apple seeds rarely grow into trees that make tasty apples.’ Nonetheless this book is an effective and simple lesson and one whose outstanding art offers much to enjoy and discuss with little ones.

Who’s Hiding on Safari?
Who’s Hiding in the Jungle?

Katharine McEwen
Nosy Crow

By means of her alluring colourful collage spreads, Katherine McEwen takes little ones to two locations to spend a day playing animal hide and seek either in Africa or the South American rainforest.

On Safari, from early morning the grasslands are an exciting place to watch wild animals be they nesting, napping, digging, playing, having a cooling afternoon swim in the river or basking in the warm sun. Come evening you can spot hungry giraffes grazing on the trees and perhaps spy a monkey or two nibbling; and when it’s dark it’s the turn of the bats and foxes to appear while their fellow creatures sleep.

There are also lots of lively animals around Hiding in the Jungle amidst the lush flora and in the overhead canopy.

Little ones can also search for others hiding along the steamy riverbank, beneath the surface of the river and, in the cool of the evening, look among the foliage for creeping, crawling creatures.

Night brings sleep for most, but lifting the flaps will reveal some surprises.

Both books contain simple factual snippets and every spread has several flaps to investigate, where there is information about the hidden animals.

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Imagine having your pet parrot or fish ending up in the cooking pot, or being sold as a slave to cook for richer neighbours.

How would you feel if you had a headache and the remedy was finding an elephant to touch your head with its trunk and hoping it sneezed a trunkful of snot right at you?

Or worse perhaps, if you were a boy you’d have to go to school every single day of the week (except holidays) and anyone who made more than the occasional mistake in class, would be held down by a couple of slaves while the teacher beat you with a leather whip: scary or what?

Alarm bells ringing I suspect, but this is just a small glimpse of what life was like for children in Ancient Rome that is provided in this fascinating book. There’s a section on clothing, hairstyles and make-up – supposing your mum used bear fat to make her hair grow, or pigeon poop to lighten it?

Other sections include food, family life, the home, gods, fun and games – yes there were some,

gladiators and emperors. And there’s a final glossary and index.

High on entertainment for sure, but also high on information of the accessible sort, this book published in association with the British Museum and with an abundance of amusing illustrations by Marisa Morea, is definitely one for primary school classes and individuals interested in ancient times.

This is a Dog

This is a Dog
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

There’s no getting away from it, Ross Collins’ intended My First Animal Book’ has been infiltrated, indeed taken over, by a mischievous canine that has no intention of doing anything but ensuring he’s the only animal that matters herein. He’s even had the audacity to substitute his name for Ross’s on the title page.

Make no bones about it, his actions are anything but well received by the other animals – note their expressions. And having annoyed the monkey, astonished the rabbit and alarmed the squirrel, he’s somehow managed to get his paws on a black crayon to edit (actually mess around with) the text.

Children will absolutely love what he does beside the giraffe and giggle at his attempts at emulating a pachyderm in front of the elephant.

He almost gets his cum uppance with bear but then comes gorilla where he definitely over steps the mark by way too much and they all give chase.

It’s fortunate that his trusty crayon is still close at paw as it enables him to have the last laugh, not to mention the final word (or two).

I love everything about this cracker of a book. It’s so clever, such a ingenious mix of seeming simplicity and sophistication, and likely to appeal to a wide readership from beginner readers to those who will notice and delight in Ross’s dedication to his own dog Hugo ‘Who taught me the meaning of irony by destroying some of the artwork from this book.’

Brilliant!

100 First Words / Betsy Rabbit in the Park & Ralphie Dog at the Station

100 First Words
Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow

This large format board book has seven spreads each devoted to a different theme – farm, outdoors, wild animals, the home, vehicles, about us and finally, bedtime.

Around fifteen named items are illustrated for every topic with additional objects hidden under flaps (two per spread) to further engage the very youngest.

The brightly coloured images are seductively arranged in a mosaic of contrastingly coloured frames of varying sizes. Each image is clearly captioned in an easily read font so that the book could also aid those beginning to learn English as an additional language.

Betsy Rabbit in the Park
Ralphie Dog at the Station

Melissa Crowton
Nosy Crow

This pair of interactive first story, board books have flaps – felt and cardboard – and mirrors (one a-piece) to help engage little ones in the narrative.

The first features Betsy who cycles to the park to meet her pals and enjoy sharing time together.

Ralphie has his suitcase with him as he heads to the station to buy a ticket. It’s a busy noisy place to wait before he boards a train bound for the seaside.

Both books have plenty for toddlers to enjoy as they listen to the simple narrative, hunt for items named, begin to count, look for differences and compare.

Unobtrusively educational and more important, fun to share.

 

Out and About: Night Explorer / Animal Homes

Out and About: Night Explorer
Robyn Swift, illustrated by Sara Lynn Cramb
Nosy Crow

Created in collaboration with the National Trust, this is an excellent little book if you’re planning on doing some exploring after dark with youngsters or are off camping somewhere.

It’s packed with information about such things as suitable clothing, creating a night-time den, star gazing, nocturnal creatures – from minibeasts to moths and mammals including bats, plus owls and amphibians; and, it’s good to see several spreads on night-time flowers.

There are lots of helpful hints on such things as tracking animals by means of footprints and poo deposits.

No matter the season there’ll be ideas herein: how about creating a house for creepy-crawlies in your garden during winter; or setting up a hedgehog feeding station?

I especially like the idea of making a sensory map at night, particularly focusing on sounds and smells as you walk and then repeating the same route in the light and comparing what you notice.

There are even suggestions for games, a quiz and a glossary.
All in all, with its plethora of very attractive labelled, coloured illustrations by Sara Lynn Cramb, this is ideal for encouraging young explorers (with an adult or older sibling) to get closer to nature at night.

Animal Homes
Clover Robin and Libby Walden
Caterpillar Books

Wherever we walk there are likely to be animals living either in the earth beneath our feet, at eye level, or high up above our heads. We currently have a bees’ nest in our chimney.

Illustrator Clover Robin and author Libby Walden offer us an insight into six different animal homes, in various parts of the world.

After a general introductory page, we visit a beehive;

a beaver lodge; the nest (eyrie) of a North American Bald Eagle; a rabbit warren; a termite mound and the earth of a Red Fox.

As well as the habitats themselves, each spread (one per home) provides factual snippets about each of the inhabitants and their habits, some of which is hidden beneath flaps.

It’s unlikely that young children will encounter these particular habitats but nevertheless this little book, with its attractive collage style illustrations will encourage them to keep their eyes open for animal homes in the environment. Should they find any it’s important to remember Libby’s final rules: ‘Find, Look, Leave’.

Some Recent Young Fiction

Sophie’s Further Adventures
Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Walker Books

This is a new edition containing three books in one, so it’s a bumper bundle of stories about the adorable, animal-mad little Sophie. I remember children in my early days of teaching avidly lapping up the stories when she first appeared on the scene back as an uncompromising four-year old who discovered a snail that led to her passion for all things animal.

In these three adventures she visits the farm, learns to ride, and pays a visit to great Aunt Al in the Scottish Highlands.

I asked the opinion of precocious reader, 6 year old Emmanuelle, who quickly became absorbed in the book. She commented that she particularly loved reading about Sophie riding Bumblebee the pony and later drew a picture of her doing so. She also said it made her want to try horse riding herself.

Seemingly the determined Sophie, still has the capacity to delight especially with Hannah Shaw’s illustrations that give the stories a fresh, present day feel.

Here Comes Lolo
Hooray for Lolo

Niki Daly
Otter-Barry Books

These books are part of a mini series for new solo readers starring young Lolo, a sparky young character who lives with her Mama and Gogo (gran) in South Africa.

Both titles have four stories each being just the right length to consume in a single sitting.

In the first book Lolo wins a longed-for gold star for reading, loses it, then gives it away; acquires a much-wanted, rather large hat; finds a lost engagement ring in the street;

and reports a lost dog and in so-doing assists in the arrest of a thief.

Along the way, helped by Niki’s delightful line drawings, we discover much about Lolo’s family life, her school life, her friendships and interests.

In Hooray for Lolo, the friendship with best pal Lulu is threatened when Lolo thinks she hasn’t been invited to her birthday party; she becomes a member of the library and chooses her first picture book which subsequently goes missing; wakes up one day with tummy ache and ends up having an operation, and finally, discovers that baby-sitting Bongi is exhausting work.

Sparkly stories all, with lots of gentle humour that will win Lolo lots of friends among young readers who are sure to enjoy making the acquaintance of this enormously engaging girl.

Princess of Pets: The Lost Puppy
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

When Princess Bea discovers a puppy in the fountain of the palace grounds, she knows that she’ll have to find it somewhere else to live for it’s against her father’s rules to have pets in their home. But with frantic preparations for the evening’s banquet under way, not to mention the deportment lessons she’s supposed to be having, keeping a lively puppy hidden at Ruby Palace in the meantime is a huge challenge.

Then there’s the matter of the threat to the café belonging to her best friend Keira’s parents, that, so she discovers over dinner, her father’s guests, are planning to demolish to make way for the mansion they intend to build. Bea is determined to thwart that plan.

Can she achieve both goals? Possibly, with her kind heart and strong resolve, together with help from her best pal and perhaps some special spring rolls from the café.

Fans of the Princess series will likely devour this addition to the series at a single sitting.

Wigglesbottom Primary: The Classroom Cat

Wigglesbottom Primary: The Classroom Cat
Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Becka Moor
Nosy Crow

This contains three more stories set at Wigglesbottom Primary.

In the first the appearance one Monday morning in 2R’s classroom of a very large stripy cat causes their teacher Miss Riley to jump almost right out of her skin in surprise at the sight of the creature sitting on her keyboard.

But is the cat actually trying to communicate something to the children and if so what on earth does the message WURGLERSSSHHHH that emerges from the printer mean?

Then the creature starts perambulating along the bookshelves and paying particular attention to a cookbook. It isn’t long before Evie MckIntosh is telling the others that the intruder is warning them about the fish soon to be served up for school lunch and Irfan is 99% certain the message is that the fish is dangerous.

Maybe the children don’t want to consume it but what about a certain feline? And was the fish dangerous or not? You’ll need to read the end of the story and make up your own mind.

The second story centres upon the vexed question of whether or not eating a crisp that you’d dropped in a puddle could give you a serious disease – Puddle-pox – for instance, said by Y6 children to be like the plague but even worse.

Imaginary Margaret as the third story is called, is supposedly Joel Jack’s imaginary friend who accompanies the class on a school trip to the museum. He says she’s 100% real and the one responsible for crisps being scattered all over the museum floor, not to mention the loo roll that comes hurtling over the cubicle wall at Jayden King; and even worse, the handprints on the newly painted Viking boat.

Becka Moor’s engaging, wonderfully expressive illustrations are the ideal complement for Pamela Butchart’s super-silly stories that are just right for newly independent readers to giggle their way through.

The Dragon in the Library / The Day I Found a Wormhole at the Bottom of the Garden

The Dragon in the Library
Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow

Kit is anything but enthusiastic about reading; she much prefers to be playing outdoors and the library is definitely not her choice of destination on the first day of the summer holidays. But when her friends manage to persuade her to accompany them she discovers that she’s a wizard. Not just any wizard though, possibly the youngest ever wizard. The librarian doubles up as a wizard too.

Before long Kit learns that she has to play a crucial role in protecting the dragon sleeping in the library. The existence of the library itself is at stake though (the villainous Salt is determined to destroy it and it seems as though he knows too much about that dragon).

There’s another snag however, over-enthusiastic Kit is, shall we say rather impetuous in the use of her new-found power and it might be that her action has put not only the library but the entire world in danger.

The plot moves at a rapid pace and with its plethora of wonderful one-liners, allusions to other children’s books, and excellent characterisation, Louise Stowell’s debut story is a cracking one. Throw Davide Ortu’s illustrations into the mix and the magic becomes even more potent. ‘True magic’ indeed as the final words of the story say.

The Day I Found a Wormhole at the Bottom of the Garden
Tom McLaughlin
Walker Books

This book is totally crazy; it’ll likely have you giggling your way through in one gulp as you encounter its diverse cast of characters. There’s metal detecting enthusiast Billy and his trusty dog Shakespeare, Billy’s nan (who loves to snooze and in between bakes cakes (rocky ones) and watches television. Then come – thanks to the wormhole of the title – Queen Victoria, Roman warrior and wonky road builder Atticus, Einstein (self explanatory), Shakespeare – the real one this time and Professor Jones, scientist specialising in time travel and consumer of quantities of his favourite dunkable chocolate biscuity confection.

How on earth can all those co-exist you may be wondering; it’s on account of that time portal aka wormhole. When you toss into the mix a whoopee cushion, (it reminds Queen Vic. ‘of my Albert after a pork-pie session’),

a toaster – which according to HRH “has utterly blown one’s mind.”, a dinosaur and the frantic race to close that wormhole before the whole of history is forever altered, you’ll be sure Tom’s day cannot get any more complicated.

Splutter-inducing dialogue, a plot that moves so fast you almost have to run to keep up, and a liberal scattering of suitably silly drawings by none other than Tom himself, not to mention a quiz, a maze and instructions for making an olde quill pen, make for a terrific adventure to tickle the taste buds of independent readers.

It would make a super class read aloud too – as long as you don’t laugh so much you lose the plot.

The Princess and the Shoe

The Princess and the Shoe
Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton
Nosy Crow

Young Princess Jasmine, hater of fancy frills and beribboned gowns has much better things to do than think about dancing with a prince, let alone getting one to kiss her. She’d far rather run about playing on the green with the other children, so when she spies a poster announcing a cross country race scheduled for the following Sunday, she’s determined to enter.

First though, she has to practise, which proves something of a challenge, especially as she ends up waist deep in muck.

And then she discovers that the date of the race clashes with her Big Birthday Ball.

It’s a rather downcast young Jasmine who sits in her window that night contemplating her lot. Suddenly out of the darkness there appears …

The tiny being offers to grant young Jasmine her wish and with a swish of her wand she produces some super go-fast shoes, saying that the magic runs out at midday.

On race day, Jasmine is ready at the starting line and sets off confidently, looking as though she’ll easily finish in time to get to the ball. But then as she’s crossing a sticky, muddy patch disaster strikes and one of her shoes is washed away down the stream.

Does the princess give up in despair: oh no she doesn’t. On she strides wearing just one red trainer gaining speed all the time …

Guess who makes it first through the finishing tape where a welcome party awaits.

Was her win due to those magic trainers or could it have been Jasmine’s self-belief and determination?

As always Caryl’s faultless rhyming narrative slides off the tongue making it a joy to read aloud, while Sarah’s scenes are sheer delight, brilliantly expressive and full of sparkle without the need for any added glitter or foil adornment.

A deliciously different Cinderella tale.

Suzy Orbit, Astronaut / Make & Play: Space / Balloon to the Moon

Here are three very different books all with a space theme:

Suzy Orbit, Astronaut
Ruth Quayle and Jez Tuya
Nosy Crow

Space engineer, Suzy Orbit lives with her boss, Captain Gizmo in a lunar space station.

One morning they learn that aliens have been spotted within range of their location and they need to act quickly to launch their space pod. The Captain orders one forthwith but it arrives without batteries and those the Captain has don’t fit.
Furthermore his shiny new space suit is way too small and as the aliens have by now arrived, it’s pointless trying to get a new speak-o-phone.

Happily though, the aliens are peaceable beings but they have bad news to share. Earth is about to be blasted by a meteor storm unless Suzy and her boss can stop it. No pressure there then.

Fortunately Suzy, with her tools always to hand, is an engineer extraordinaire and just happens to have a wonderful new invention ready and waiting. It’s as well that one of the team realises that it’s better to rely on ingenuity than ordering things on the net. Before you can say ‘blaster’ the two are heading out into the meteor storm with Suzy at the controls to do battle with those errant meteoroids. Can they save the day and see off the storm?

It’s great to see Suzy as a positive STEM character in the role of engineer/inventor in Ruth Quayle’s quirky tale. Jez Tuya’s bold illustrations show her as having determination and resourcefulness – exactly what’s needed in the face of the Captain’s lack of drive and inability to show any innovative aptitude.

Make & Play: Space
Joey Chou
Nosy Crow

The latest of Joey Chou’s Make & Play interactive activity book series is sure to please young space enthusiasts.
It contains eight pages of bold, brightly coloured, double-sided press-out play pieces that can be used to create a space scene (some have a hole to suspend with thread while others slide together to stand). The entire set would make a great diorama with space dogs, aliens, astronauts and spacecraft, though if desired, the pieces can be fitted back into the spirally bound book for safe keeping.

There are also other space-related activities – a fruit rocket made from fresh fruit pieces; a song to learn; a ‘blast-off rocket’ science experiment, alien models to create (they could be made into puppets perhaps) and more.
There are hours of fun to be had with this, whether used by an individual, or a small group of young children.

For older space enthusiasts is:

Balloon to the Moon
Gill Arbuthnott and Christopher Nielson
Big Picture Press

Rather than concentrating on the Space Race, this takes a historic look at the steps that began in the late 18th century with the Montgolfier brothers flight of a large unmanned balloon and led on to their sending a variety of animals skywards on a 3km flight three months later.

In the same year came the first manned untethered flight by inventor Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes who flew 8km in a Montgolfier balloon. Hot on their heels came the first woman to do similar, the following year (1784). There’s a whole spread given over to this balloon bonanza.

The narrative then shifts to the first half of the 20th century with a look at some aviation pioneers, followed by a focus on some iconic planes.

I was especially pleased to find some literary references on the opening page of the ‘rockets section’ where there’s a mention of both Cyrano de Bergerac and Jules Verne. The author uses numbers in her selection of what she includes so we have, for instance ‘8 Rockets’

and ‘Into the Unknown 7’. The seven referring to the seven animals that became the first astronauts; and this chapter cleverly links these with an explanation of g-forces and their relation to fighter pilots and astronauts.

Much of the remaining part of the book provides information on the endeavours of the US and the Soviet Union to win the space race; and what happened thereafter. In conclusion there’s a quick look at some of the new information the Apollo Moon flights gave us; what ‘space travel has done for life on earth’ and a final look to the future.

Christopher Nielson’s retro style illustrations are full of humorous touches adding to the allure of the book and the enjoyment of the whole narrative.

Find Tom in Time: Ancient Egypt

 

Find Tom In Time: Ancient Egypt
Fatti Burke
Nosy Crow

When Tom’s adventure-loving, archaeologist grandmother, Bea holds out an amulet for him to touch,

he finds himself transported back to a desert in Ancient Egypt surrounded by huge pyramids. In front of one stands a large statue called the sphinx. That though is only the first of the fascinating sights and activities that he encounters on his time travelling trip.

A funeral procession passes by and Tom follows behind to witness the burying of a mummy. He suddenly realises that there’s a cat on the scene that looks uncannily like his gran’s Digby. Surely not, but it is, and thereafter the creature is one of the numerous items readers are asked to spot in the locations Tom visits.

There’s the River Nile

and farmland close by, flooded annually by the river that puts additional nutrients into the soil; the busy town marketplace; the huge temple close to which is a scribe school where fortunate students sit writing on stone blocks.

From there Tom follows a boy to the embalming workshop that is full of dead bodies , priests and workers.

Outside again he takes a look at some of the houses, one of which belongs to a nobleman and is full of expensive wooden furniture, ivory and gold.

Somehow the lad finds himself at a banquet where guests feast on such things as duck, goose, fresh fruit, sweet cakes and pastries.

By now dusk has fallen, Digby still eludes him but Tom makes a stop at a riverside festival having heard a familiar meow. Surely that can’t be Granny Bea holding the errant moggy?

It is; and as Tom reaches out to hug her, there’s a ‘whoosh!’ and they’re back home in the present. It’s then that readers learn that Granny Bea has accompanied Tom at every stage of his journey: time to go back and start searching for her in every scene.

The Ancient Egyptians is a very popular unit of study in the KS2 curriculum and with detailed art by Fatti Burke, this book, published in collaboration with The British Museum, will make a fun, immersive and educative addition to a primary school collection as well as one to enjoy at home, especially by those who are eager search and finders. It’s fortunate perhaps that there are solutions showing the location of all the seven items hidden in each spread.

Astro Girl / Where’s Mr Astronaut?

Astro Girl
Ken Wilson-Max
Otter-Barry Books

Space and stars enthusiast Astrid wants to become an astronaut, so she tells Jake her best pal as they lie stargazing.

She goes on to tell the same to her papa over breakfast.

He challenges her assertion with comments about orbiting the Earth in a spaceship, dining on food from tubes and packets, becoming used to zero gravity, conducting scientific experiments …

and sleeping alone among the stars: he seems pretty knowledgeable about life in space. Astrid assures her Papa that she can manage all those things even the solo sleeping.

The day comes for the two of them to go and collect Mama in the car.

It’s then that we discover the possible reason for Astrid’s enthusiasm about space and her Papa’s knowledge.

A joyful reunion takes place and thereafter the little girl starts reading avidly to learn as much as she can about how to achieve her ambition, and about some of those trailblazing astronauts who went before, several of whom were women.

Simply and beautifully told, Ken keeps readers interested in the theme by showing us space related items such as Astrid’s t-shirt, her breakfast cereal, Papa’s T-shirts, the cookie shapes they bake together, pictures, a toy – all of which help in the build-up to the grand finale.

A smashing book for young space enthusiasts and perhaps to share on Father’s Day.

For a younger audience is:


Where’s Mr Astronaut?
Ingela P.Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Vibrant, immediately appealing illustrations characterise Ingela P.Arrhenius’ latest title for the ‘flaps and mirror’ series in an amusing introduction to space exploration for the very youngest.

The space travellers hidden herein are a delightful mix of human, canine and alien. There’s Mrs Engineer, Mr Space Dog, Mrs Alien,

Mr Astronaut and finally, whoever happens to be looking in the mirror tucked beneath the felt moon flap.

This one’s sure to add to the deserved popularity of the hide-and-seek series.

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.

Animal Families: Forest, Animal Families: Safari / If I Were a Bear

Animal Families: Forest
Animal Families: Safari

Jane Ormes
Nosy Crow

Little ones can discover the parental names of a variety of animals in two different habitats.

Forest presents for example a ‘mummy fox’ or vixen, a dog (daddy) fox and then if you lift the flap on the recto, you discover some baby foxes or kits.

Interestingly both a female deer and a female rabbit are called does whereas a male deer is a stag and a male rabbit is a buck; their offspring are fawns (baby deer) and like foxes, baby rabbits are called kits.

A boar (male bear) and a sow (female) produce bear cubs.

The pattern is the same throughout with the little ones being discovered by lifting the flaps on each recto.

The final spread has gatefolds opening to showcase the collective nouns for each of the animal families included.

Safari is slightly different in that each of the parent animals (leopards, zebras, lions and rhinos) are referred to as ‘daddy’ or ‘mummy’ and beneath the flaps are hidden ‘baby’ leopards, ‘baby’ zebras and so on while the final spread asks tinies to point out various items such as a pink sun’ or ‘little yellow huts’.

The real strength of both books is Jane Ormes’ striking, screen-printed patterned animal images that all have a textured look about them providing further opportunities for language development.

If I Were a Bear
Shelley Gill and Erik Brooks
Little Bigfoot

Through Shelley Gill’s informative rhyming text and Erik Brooks’ splendid, realistic painterly illustrations, the very young are introduced to several kinds of bears, their habits and habitats.

They may be surprised to learn that not only are there black, brown and polar bears, but also rare blue bears and black bears born white, also known as Kermode bears.

Read to Your Baby Every Day / Hickory Dickory Dock

Read to Your Baby Every Day
edited by Rachel Williams, illustrated by Chloe Giordano
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Editor Rachel Williams has chosen thirty classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes, favourite nursery songs along with the occasional action rhyme for this collection for adult carers to share with babies.

Chloe Giordana has crafted beautiful, intricately detailed sewn accompaniments to the words using a mix of stitching and fabrics that are hand-dyed.

It’s never and I mean never, too soon to introduce babies to rhymes and songs; there’s absolutely no better way not only to bond with a little one, but it’s proven that exposure to the world around through spoken words, rhymes and songs gives young children a head start in education, and not only with respect to language learning and communication skills.

This lovely collection will introduce tinies to the likes of Hey, Diddle Diddle, Hickory Dickory Dock, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, Humpty Dumpty

and Little Miss Muffet along with Row, Row Row Your Boat, Hush Little Baby and I’m a Little Teapot,

and even both in English and French Are you sleeping?

A lovely gift to give a new parent.

Hickory Dickory Dock
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

A favourite rhyme with all the nursery classes I ever taught is this one that’s now given the ‘Sing along with me!’ format characterised by sturdy sliders and peep-holes. However in addition to singing the song, little ones will love watching the escapades of the mice as the clock strikes one, then two, then three

and finally four, and discovering that by four o’clock there’s not just one but four mice tucked up in cosy beds ready for some shut-eye, having escaped the clutches of the moggy character that has been eyeing them during the past three hours.

Yu-hsuan Huang’s illustrations are a delight with plenty to interest child and adult as they share the book or perhaps listen to the recording from the scanned QR code.

The Suitcase


The Suitcase

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Nosy Crow

One day there comes a weary, wan and dusty looking stranger dragging behind him a large suitcase. Challenged by a watching bird as to the contents of his suitcase, the creature answers, ’Well, there’s a teacup.’

Another animal arrives on the scene expressing surprise at the size of the case in relation to a teacup and is told that it also contains a table for the cup and a wooden chair for the stranger to sit on. Up rocks a fox and on hearing what’s being said, implies the stranger is lying.

This prompts him to fill in further details about a wooden cabin with a kitchen or making tea and to describe its surrounding landscape too.

By now the creature is so exhausted he begs to be left alone to rest and falls asleep right away.

The other three creatures discuss things and fox is determined to discover the veracity or not of the information the stranger has given. His friends are less sure that breaking into the case is acceptable but fox goes ahead and the contents of the suitcase is revealed …

The damage is done: still fox insists the stranger lied to them whereas the other two are showing concern.

Meanwhile the slumberer dreams …

And when he wakes up he’s totally surprised at what the others have done …

Audiences will go through the whole gamut of emotions when this heart-rending story is shared, as did this reviewer.

It’s a totally brilliant, brilliantly simple and compelling way of opening up and discussing with little ones the idea of kindness and how we should treat those in need. I love the way the animals and what they say are colour matched and Chris’s portrayal of the characters is superb.

What better book could there be to share with a nursery or foundation stage class during refugee week than this one, offering as it does, hope and the possibility of new friendship.

Beetles, Butterflies and other British Minibeasts / Look and Say: What You See at the Seaside / Queen Victoria

Beetles, Butterflies and other British Minibeasts
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow & the National Trust

In all my time teaching under 7s, I’ve probably never come across a child, however lively or challenging who, when outside (or sometimes in) failed to become engrossed in watching such minibeasts as woodlice, ants, ladybird larva or caterpillars.

This beautifully illustrated Nature Sticker book takes users to several locations where minibeasts are likely to abound: the vegetable patch – several, but not all of the minibeasts therein are likely to be pests.

Anything but pests are bees, hugely important garden visitors that have a vital role in pollination, as do some butterflies like the beauties shown herein.

The shed is a likely place to find spiders and their webs in abundance as well as daddy-long-legs and perhaps other less desirable kinds of flies.
You’ll probably hear grasshoppers and crickets before you see them as they’re often camouflaged in the long grass they like to frequent.
Tree trunks like this one are good spots for discovering and observing beetles.

What better time that now to get outside, look for small creatures and then come back and enjoy hours of learning and fun with this beautifully illustrated book?

Look and Say: What You See at the Seaside
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow & the National Trust

Whether you’re building sandcastles at the water’s edge, swimming in the sea, looking at the boats in the harbour, walking on the cliffs, rock-pooling, fishing, exploring the estuary, strolling on the sand-dunes, or perhaps diving down beneath the waves, there’s always plenty of interesting things to see. when you visit the seaside.

This is what Sebastien Braun shows in his engaging scenes of the various locations, each of which has an introductory sentence and another pointing out a particular feature of note. At the bottom of each spread is a row of named objects to find in the large illustration and say together, if sharing the book as intended with an adult (or older child).

A fun way to develop vocabulary and observational skills with little ones.

Queen Victoria
Illustrated by Nina Cosford
Puffin / V&A

Readers with an interest in the past will enjoy this mini-hardback book that looks at the life of Victoria and her legacy.
It tells how, when the young Victoria became queen she was determined to break free from the controlling influences of her mother and her courtiers and rule Britain on her own, even if she didn’t always get things right. It was against royal protocol for her cousin Albert, with whom she fell in love, to propose marriage to her; instead she did the honours and was accepted.

As well as information about the Queen, there are spreads about the industrial revolution; the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, the royal couple’s work in support of the arts and science,

their interest in the latest technological developments as well as Albert’s popularising of the Christmas tree and Victoria’s golden and diamond jubilees.

Illustrated with a mix of photographs and finely detailed illustrations by Nina Cosford this is one to add to primary school classroom shelves, or for young readers wanting an introduction to a fascinating period of great change.

Fabio: Mystery of the Ostrich Express / Ariana and Whisper / Princess of Pets: The Naughty Kitten

Fabio: Mystery of the Ostrich Express
Laura James, illustrated by Emily Fox
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Fabio, flamingo detective and resident of a small town on the banks of Lake Laloozee, returns to solve his second case and it involves a stolen necklace.

Fabio and his trusty associate Gilbert giraffe are about to depart on the Ostrich Express for a much-needed holiday at Coconut Palm Resort when something, or rather someone, catches Fabio’s eye.

Once on the train, a desert fox who introduces herself as Zazie – appears in the dining car sporting a fur stole and enormous ruby pendant – the legendary, -very valuable so she tells Fabio and Gilbert – Lalooze Ruby.

As the train speeds across the desert, unexpected happenings take place, the first being that Gilbert is knocked unconscious when he hits his head against the window as the train is suddenly brought to a full-stop. Leaving his friend in the care of Zazie, Fabio leaves the train and discovers a baby elephant lying beneath the stars tied to the tracks. Fabio unties him and learns that a gang of bandits – hyenas and a leopard – had tied him down.

That though is only the beginning. Soon a scream pierces the dark followed by hyena’s laugh and as Fabio climbs back aboard the train he spots a leopard silhouette and learns that the ruby has vanished from around Zazie’s neck – pulled off by a thief so she says.

Never fear, Fabio is hot on the case; he merely needs to enlist the aid of the train crew to help power his refurbished handcar,

let loose the tied-together table cloths , … cavort across a few train carriages, execute a deft flick of Gilbert’s cane and … and … that would be telling way too much of this exciting, fast-paced, perfect for just flying solo readers tale.

And with Emily Fox’s dayglo bright, pink and orange powered illustrations and occasional text backgrounds, plus Fabio-patterned chapter breaks, what more can any young reader want?

Ariana and Whisper
Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman
Nosy Crow

Unicorn Academy is ‘where magic happens’ and now in story number 8, arachnid-fearing  Ariana is finding it hard to make friends. She does however love her special unicorn Whisper and enjoys spending time in the stables bonding with him and helping him discover his magic power.

Things improve somewhat when she starts to bond with untidy Matilda and then Ms Nettles announces that the day’s lessons are to be replaced by a field trip to the edges of the woods to find out which animals are leaving and why. An adventure is set to begin: something is very wrong in the woods and Ariana can feel it.

Not long after, Whisper discovers his special power: perhaps with its help, together with the courage of Ariana, her unicorn and the other students, the mystery of what has been happening with the animals can be solved.

Fans of the sparkling series will lap this up with its short, bite-size chapters and Lucy Truman’s enchanting black and white drawings.

Princess of Pets: The Naughty Kitten
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

Princess Bea is an animal lover but her father King George tells her time and again that Ruby Palace is ‘no place for a pet’. However, the nine-year-old princess isn’t one to be deterred by royal rules when it comes to taking care of animals needing help.

While she’s at the kite festival with her teacher Mr Wells, Bea climbs up a tree to free her kite and there comes upon a ginger kitten; and of course, she just has to rescue it.

Determined to keep it safe until they can find its owner she manages to sneak it in to the palace but discovers that Tiger as she calls it, is rather excitable. Moreover when her father discovers the creature, he’s far from pleased and gives Bea just 24 hours to get rid of it.

At night the kitten decides to go exploring and Bea needs to summon up all her courage to hunt around the palace in the pitch dark, especially when she hears a noise that doesn’t sound like Tiger …

Young animal lovers just flying solo as readers will enjoy this addition to the series illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller.

Have You Seen My Blankie?

Have You Seen My Blankie?
Lucy Rowland and Paula Metcalf
Nosy Crow

Lucy Rowland is a highly skilled rhyme writer and here she uses her verbal artistry to tell the tale of young Princess Alice and her soft, warm, snuggly blankie.

One day this exceedingly cuddlesome item goes missing. Alice hunts high and low unsuccessfully

and then heads outside to consult her brother Jack playing in his den. Jack informs her that he’d used it a while back but then a giant took it away.

Off goes Alice to find the giant. He invites her in to partake of tasty pies but tells her that yes, he’d had the item, used it to wipe his nose, whereafter a witch flew off with it. Again, the witch had made use of the object (as a cloak) until it was snatched by a dragon.
Following a snoring sound coming from the forest, Alice puts on a brave face and walks towards a cave wherein, seated at the entrance she finds …

Surprisingly however, the dragon isn’t at all ferocious and instead tells the child how much he benefits from such a soft item to protect him from the cold, rough cave floor when he sleeps.

Alice’s first thought is to establish owner’s rights, then on further consideration she comes up with an alternative plan: to help the dragon find a warm, soft, snuggly substitute.

Easy, you might be thinking but their search is far from so and both Alice and dragon become increasingly troubled

until finally they arrive back at the royal palace sans anything suitable.

Eventually up in the attic the little princess extricates the perfect item … Sleep well Alice, sleep well dragon friend.

Equally as enchanting as Lucy’s telling are Paula Metcalf’s illustrations. Her colour palette – mainly greeny, orangey, browny, bluey hues is a great choice and her characters human and animal are adorable and splendidly expressive.

A felicitous collaboration, an enormously successful mix of words and pictures: in short, a super read-aloud picture book to enjoy especially just before snuggle up time.

Board Book Gathering: Jump! / Hello House / Hello Garage / Meeko and the Big Red Potty

Jump!
Tatsuhide Matsuoka
Gecko Press

This is such a cool board book; it made me want to go out, find the nearest toddler, share the book and do some joyful, very noisy celebratory jumping about together.

The idea is so simple yet SO effective: a patterned text accompanies a statement going over two vertically opening spreads, starting with ‘A frog jumps. // Boing!’
It then proceeds to introduce other agile jumping creatures – a kitten, a dog, a grasshopper …

a rabbit, a snail – although that one just cannot get airborn,

a mother hen and chick, a fish and finally the small girl narrator of Tatsuhide Matsuoka’s cracking little book.

Ready to jump? Everybody ready? 1, 2, 3 … BOING!

Hello House
Hello Garage

Nicola Slater
Nosy Crow

In Hello House little Ludo is out and about in search of some friends to play with. He calls first at the home of Milly and Dylan who are busy cooking in their kitchen. Next stop is at the rabbits’ residence where he invites the bunnies to join him. Ludo and entourage then proceed to Ruby and Ned’s house and ask the pups to leave the TV and play outside.

Their final port of call is Bruno Bear’s and there they discover a sleeping friend who needs a spot of nose tickling to wake him from his slumbers. Then with all the friends assembled it’s time for some fun …

Little fingers will enjoy lifting the house-shaped flaps to assist Ludo as he rounds up his pals.

Equally enjoyable is Hello Garage and again Ludo is on the hunt for playmates only now his search takes him to the garage where he looks in various vehicles in the hope that he’ll find some not too busy animals with time to play.

With Leo, Mabel, Olaf, Daisy, George, and finally (after a tummy tickling rousing) Lucy duly invited, let playtime begin on the ‘soft, green grass’

Toddler fun through a pleasing repeat pattern text, and bright illustrations with plenty of detail to peruse and discuss.

Meeko and the Big Red Potty
Camilla Reid and Nicola Slater
Nosy Crow

Little ones just at the potty training stage will love that you can orchestrate Camilla Reid’s story by means of the strategically placed sound buttons as they hear how now a big bear, Meeko recently has graduated from nappies to big bear pants. However there are still times like this one when he just can’t manage to hold it and so does a wee, soaking his pants and the floor.
Happily next time though he remembers he needs to run to his red potty before it’s too late

and the simple story ends with a proud Meeko and equally proud parents and animal friends. Splendidly expressive illustrations from Nicola Slater make this down-to-earth board book a winner.

Who is Afraid of Little Wolf? / Marley Bear at the farm / Ottie Elephant in the town

Who is Afraid of Little Wolf?
Yayo Kawamura
Prestel Publishing

A bored little wolf is eager to find a playmate but he’s rebuffed in turn by little squirrel, little rabbit and little fox each saying that their mother doesn’t allow them to play with wolves.

Feeling rejected and sad, the little wolf hears a voice inviting him to play. It’s little bee, who is definitely not afraid of him and wants to play hide and seek.

So much fun do they have that the forest resounds with their playfulness.

All of a sudden, first squirrel and then a host of other animals want to join the game …

It’s never too early to demonstrate to the very youngest the importance of friendship and of not prejudging others; Yayo Kawamura’s delightful little book with its endearing characters does both of those without a hint of preachiness.

Marley Bear at the farm
Ottie Elephant in the town

Melissa Crowton
Nosy Crow

Part novelty lift-the-flap, part seek-and-find, these tactile board books, the first two of a new series, involve little ones from the outset.

Marley Bear stars in the first book and we join him on a farm visit. There’s plenty to discover as he’s greeted by Gus Lion,

encounters some noisy farm animals including a pig family, a soft, fluffy sheep (very strokable) and then looks at more farm animals, the farmhouse and a truck before jumping into his car to drive home. Highly interactive, with some subtle positional vocabulary learning (in front/behind).

It’s a busy day when Ottie Elephant makes a trip to town; the place is bustling with shoppers and full of noise;

there are many colourful sights to enjoy, and as well as counting Ottie’s flowers, little ones can explore her shopping basket before she sets off home for some welcome refreshments.

Little Duck Duck hides in plain sight in every spread adding to the enjoyment of both books.

Lots of inherent learning, but most important, lots of fun to share with tinies.

 

 

The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace / Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box

The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace
Paula Harrison
Nosy Crow

In the 15th and final adventure in the series, it’s up to Zina and her friends to save the tamarind trees of their rainforest home. These trees are the only ones that provide year round food for the lemurs but they’re scheduled to be cut down to make way for the carnival that has been re-routed on account of the usual road being flooded.

Princess Zina is horrified at the prospect; but the princesses must use their intelligence, co-operative skills, kindness and courage to protect the animals and their precious tamarinds.

With their camouflage ninja gear and Zina’s special amber necklace, said by her grandma to hold the heart of the forest it might just be possible to persuade Ando and his workmates to find another path. If not, could the amber jewel works it magic? …

Another exciting tale with short chapters, plenty of line drawings and an exciting and intriguing plot to keep readers turning the pages, this is ideal for new solo readers.

For readers who like longer stories there are two new fiction titles from Maverick Publishing coming soon: one is

Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box
Alice Hemming, illustrated by Mike Garton
Maverick Publishing

4X have become 5P and they’re back with another highly unusual teacher, not from the stone age this time but nevertheless there’s something not quite normal about Miss Pythia.
For a start, she always seems to know exactly what is about to happen; she has a weird-looking symbol tattooed on the back of her neck; she never seems to change her clothes, and there’s that box she keeps on her desk. Mmmm! And could it be sheer co-incidence that she shares her name with a priestess of the Ancient Greek world?

When I taught nursery children we often did an activity called, ‘What’s in the box?’ Singing a little ditty based on those words served to arouse the children’s interest and enthusiasm before the lid was lifted and we investigated its contents. And that is just what Miss Arlo does when she instructs her class that opening the particular box she has in her safe-keeping, is strictly forbidden.

But then 5P are selected to participate in A Play a Day, electing to perform a version of Pandora’s Box and Arlo is chosen to act as director. Can his classmates resist the temptation to open Miss Pythia’s actual box as they rehearse?

What Arlo doesn’t immediately spot as he gets engrossed in his directing role is that the replica box made for the drama has been switched.

Then with the play in full swing a terrible realisation comes upon him …

Another winner from Alice Hemming; it’s full of suspense, gently humorous and splendidly complemented by Mike Garton’s lively, expressive drawings, which provide additional details and humour.

Now set fair to become a super series, this story is great for solo reading as well as highly appropriate as a class read aloud especially if the Ancient Greeks are on the agenda.