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.