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.