Tag Archives: Nosy Crow

Halloween is Coming: The Right One / Monster School / Bizzy Bear Spooky House

The Right One
Violeta Noy
Templar Books

New Spanish author/illustrator Violeta Roy presents in bold graphics, a cute story about daring to be different ghost-style: it’s perfect for Halloween, especially for those who don’t like to be scared.

Roderic is the smallest ghost in a very large, ancient family. They all look pretty much alike on account of wearing sheets although Roderic’s is the tiniest.

This diminutive ghost is the last of a long line and he feels more than a little insignificant. None of his family seems to notice his presence. Roderic decides to do something about this. His name is fixed, ditto his family but he can change his appearance. Both a hat, and a scarf prove problematic.

Next morning, deciding a more radical approach is required, our little ghost experiments until finally he’s ready to sport his new gear.

However the reception he receives isn’t quite what he’d hoped, so off he goes to strut his stuff among the city folks. Once again though, nobody notices him at all: poor little thing is now feeling even more invisible than ever.

Back home again he’s given a fresh white sheet but it makes him anything but happy. His frustration causes things to start flying around, one of which just happens to land upon the little ghost and yippee! It feels absolutely right.

What’s more, it looks absolutely right and now nobody is going to stop him from wearing it.
And maybe, just maybe, his new appearance might have some influence on other members of Roderic’s family.

For older readers:

Monster School
Kate Coombs and Lee Gatlin
Chronicle Books

A school it may be, but despite its fairly typical activities – homework for example, there’s a class pet and a regular weekly menu on offer at the cafeteria – Monster School’s pupils are anything but your usual boys and girls; the staff are pretty weird too.

Let’s meet some of them. There’s Stevie the Loser, who manages to lose pretty much anything and everything from backpack, book and homework, to his eyeball, kneecap and arm; what a zombie! He may not be able to find said homework but keen-eyed readers will surely spot it still attached to that missing arm of his.
There’s also ‘a ‘multicultural’ miss – whose family tree comprises giants, witches, trolls and other ghoulies.

Computer Wizard has tech skills aplenty: app creator, program writer extraordinaire, with a mouse that dines on virtual crackers and cheese and a ram that consumes virtual grass; seemingly this guy can do anything so long as it’s not a word problem.
I should also mention she of the amazing hair; it’s entirely reptilian with an abundance of adders, vipers and other venomous twisters and twiners.

Katie Coombs imaginative verses employ a variety of forms that will send tingles down the spines of primary age readers while Lee Gatlin’s creepy illustrations home in on the grim and gruesome with plenty of details of the shivery kind.

For the youngest:

Bizzy Bear Spooky House
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow

In his latest adventure, Bizzy Bear dons his starry costume and accompanied by his pal, ventures into a spooky house. Therein are plenty of things to make him shiver as he enters the spiders’ web festooned hall, climbs the creaky stairs and discovers a surprise party at the very top of the house.
Benji Davies’ scenes have plenty to amuse and explore and with a slider or tab to manipulate on every spread, this is mock scary Halloween fun for toddlers.

The Rabbit, The Dark and the Biscuit Tin

The Rabbit, The Dark and the Biscuit Tin
Nicola O’Byrne
Nosy Crow

It’s almost bedtime but rabbit is not  ready for sleep. Suddenly, while out in his garden he has a bright idea: If it doesn’t get dark then he need not go to bed at all. Grabbing his best biscuit tin with a single remaining biscuit inside, he heads back outside to find The Dark.
An easy job and Rabbit offers it the biscuit but as Dark reaches out, SNAP goes the lid of the tin: Rabbit has caught The Dark inside.
From inside the box comes a voice chastising Rabbit for his thoughtless action. What about all the animals that get up as night falls: The Dark is vital for them.

Selfishly Rabbit goes inside clutching his tin of Dark. Their conversation continues with The Dark pointing out what his captor will miss unless he frees his prisoner. Rabbit’s mood deteriorates and he stomps back outside clutching his tin tightly.

What he sees and feels – a very hot, sad looking place full of very hot sad-looking animals and even worse, his favourite carrots have all wilted.

The Dark makes one more plea for release: “I want to show you how wonderful I can be …” he says.
This makes Rabbit really think and slowly, slowly he opens the lid to find …

Dark points out some further good things he has to offer, not least of which is bedtime stories. Now though it appears that he’s too tired even for one of those.

Nicola’s lovely story is perfect for bedtime reading. It gently and unobtrusively introduces the idea of nocturnal animals as well as only thinking of oneself.
With gorgeous illustrations and a pop-out surprise to open, this book may well cause little ones to delay bedtime to hear the story ‘just one more time’.

The Boy and the Bear / This Book Just Stole My Cat!

The Boy and the Bear
Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow

It’s not much fun playing alone as the little boy in this story knows so well; he longs to have a friend to share in such games as hide-and-seek and catch.

One day as he sits alone, he spies a paper boat floating towards him; on it is the brief message, BOO! Could perhaps it be from the best friend he so longs for? Messages are exchanged and a meeting arranged.

Bear however isn’t exactly the kind of best friend he so desires. Nevertheless he does invite the bear to play hide-and-seek. The game is not a success, neither are the other activities they try.

Bear however does have other positive qualities that are revealed one morning in autumn. The two then embark upon a collaborative project –

one that once complete results in a special time together.Time doesn’t stand still though and as autumn gives way to winter, Bear has to depart leaving the boy with a realisation of all that he’s lost. But not lost forever: come the spring boy spies not one but three message carrying paper boats …

Tracey’s enchanting tale of the joys of establishing and maintaining a special friendship is illustrated in Sarah’s equally enchanting spreads that show how the friendship develops across the seasons.

A lovely book to be shared over and over.

This Book Just Stole My Cat!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

A certain book seems to have an insatiable desire for furry creatures (and other items on occasion): first it consumed a dog and here it’s become a cat thief. Poor Ben, for it’s his cat that’s gone missing, followed shortly after by Bella who has kindly offered to help in the search.
Along comes a rescue vehicle and guess what …

That leaves only Ben (and a tiny fluffy rodent) to proceed with the rescue mission: Ben however doesn’t last much longer.

Not long after, a message appears requesting the reader’s assistance: tickling seems to be a possible rescue facilitator for said book is bound to respond to a dose of tickly fingers by emitting a rather forceful sneeze.

Yeah! Success! There’s only a slight issue that needs to be sorted now …

Another fun, interactive tale of Ben and Bella for little ones; it’s great for beginning readers too.

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree
selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
Nosy Crow

Wow! this huge, weighty volume is most definitely something to celebrate. Containing 366 nature poems, one for every day of the year, the collaboration between publishers Nosy Crow and the National Trust is a veritable treasure trove.

Fiona Waters wonderfully thoughtful compilation includes something for all tastes and all moods: there are poems, chants, songs and rhymes including a fair sprinkling from the great anon.

Each month contains a mix of the familiar including timeless classics, and a wealth of new offerings to delight and enchant.

185 poets are presented, both contemporary and from past times, mainly from UK based and American poets including Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas, William Blake from the UK; and Emily Dickinson, Amy Lowell, my very favourite poet Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings from the US. Alongside are more modern offerings from Charles Causley, Carol Ann Duffy, Richard Edwards, John Agard, Tony Mitton,

Philip Gross, Benjamin Zephaniah to name but a few and from the USA: Aileen Fisher, Jack Prelutsky, David McCord and Myra Cohn Livingstone.

Almost all the poems are familiar to me (no surprise as I have compiled over 30 books of poetry) but I’ve also discovered some new gems such as Adelaide Crapsey’s November Night:
Listen … / With faint dry sound, / Like steps of passing ghosts, / The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees / And fall.
And Snow Toward Evening by Melville Cane:
Suddenly the sky turned gray, / The day, / Which had been bitter and chill, / Grew soft and still. / Quietly. / From some invisible blossoming tree / Millions of petals cool and white / Drifted and blew, / Lifted and flew, / Fell with the falling night.

Frann Preston-Gannon has done an amazing job with her art work: helping to reflect the beauty of the natural world and the changing seasons she provides a fine complement to the poems.

I found this beautifully bound, utterly enthralling book waiting for me on my recent return from India; I’ve been dipping in and out of it ever since, rediscovering old favourites and unearthing some fresh treasures. I suspect I shall continue to do so for a long time yet. It’s an ideal family book, a must for every school and a perfect way to start or end the day (or both).

Come on teachers – what about a poem a day with your class: Fiona has done all the hard work for you.

How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear / Terrific Tongues!

How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear
Jess French and Angela Keoghan
Nosy Crow

It’s never too early to get your children interested in, and involved with, conservation and helping to care for our planet and the amazing creatures that share it with us.

Jess French, a zoologist, naturalist and vet, demonstrates that small-seeming actions can be significant and each one contributes to the whole huge conservation task. For each of the dozen habitats – gardens, hedgerows,

heathlands, woodlands, highlands, wetlands, bodies of freshwater, coastlines, oceans, savannahs, jungles and mountains, she suggests straightforward everyday things we can all do to help protect these precious ecosystems and contribute towards making them places where the fauna and flora can thrive.

We might for instance create a bee-friendly wild part of our garden or build a log pile so lizards or insects have a warm, safe place to survive the winter chills.

Or perhaps when out and about we might participate in a butterfly or dragonfly count in a local wetland area. All these things can make a difference to the bigger picture as well as being thoroughly enjoyable.

Angela Keoghan’s splendid illustrations add to the pleasures of this absorbing and inspiring book that’s just perfect for young aspiring conservationists either at home or in school.

Terrific Tongues!
Maria Gianferrari and Jia Liu
Boyd Mills Press

Here’s a smashing little book that demonstrates the enormous versatility of animal tongues presenting the information in a really fun interactive way for young children who will delight at being asked, as they are on the opening page to ‘Stick out your tongue!’ as well as trying to imagine it as a straw, a mop and a sword.

Courtesy of a monkey presenter, we follow the creature as it tries out the various possibilities: for instance a sword-like tongue, as used by a woodpecker, becomes a sharp tool with which to stab insects especially beetle larvae that burrow beneath the tree bark.

The pages work in pairs with the recto asking the question and using a common object

and the verso providing an illustration of the kind of animal with that particular sort of tongue as well as some interesting relevant facts.

The final pages look at human tongues with some amusing things to try, as well as further information on the animal tongues featured (I love the rhyming spread) and where the creatures live.

The entire book is great fun to use with a group who will eagerly anticipate what’s coming; and its patterned text also makes it a great one for learner readers to try themselves. All will enjoy Jia Liu’s playful digital illustrations.

Spike The Hedgehog Who Lost His Prickles

Spike The Hedgehog Who Lost His Prickles
Jeanne Willis & Jarvis
Nosy Crow

Suddenly finding yourself without your defences isn’t something anybody would want to happen, but it’s the fate of hedgehog Spike who awakes one morning to discover that all his prickles have fallen out overnight. The unfortunate fellow is spineless, completely bare no less. “I’m in the nude. How rude!’ he says. “What will the neighbours think?’ And off he goes in search of something to wear that will cover his embarrassment.

He dons a paper lampshade and sallies forth only to have rain render it useless

and expose his nether regions to the amusement of all around.
Having fled to the woods he comes upon, of all unlikely things, a china cup and plate – the latter being a perfect bottom cover. But then the cup/hat tips and the poor creature trips; you can imagine the fate of his new outfit.

Badger has things to say about his lack of spikes next, but before long Spike finds a sock, albeit a rather whiffy one, but it serves as a smock. Little does he know however, that as he wanders merrily on his way, the thing is slowly unravelling and yet again he’s the butt of some unwelcome comments.

Blushing, our spikeless pal dashes on until he spies a bunch of balloons of all hues. Now he’s the object of the other animals’ admiration as he floats off skywards.

The sun sinks, the moon rises and Spike drifts until he’s made two circles of the world.

Suddenly he sees his home once more below, he waves and …

Now why might that be? It certainly looks as though it’s time to celebrate …

This book is an absolute treat to read aloud; not only does Jeanne Willis’ rhyme flow without a single spike, but Jarvis portrays the entire journey in his own inimitable brilliant way and there are SO many wonderful details to linger over. The colour palette is splendidly summery but this is a tale to share at any time; and its finale is an absolute hoot.

A winner through and through.

Nature & Around the World / Look, a Butterfly! / Little Boat

Nature
Around the World

Nosy Crow

These are the two latest additions to the wonderful board book series produced in collaboration with The British Museum, each presenting and celebrating cultures the world over, and inspired by the enormous British Museum collection.
Nature celebrates both the flora and fauna of the world and the elements, from a shell to the sun; the squirrel to the sunflower and the butterfly to blossom.

It’s absolutely gorgeous and certain to engender curiosity about the natural world.
In Around the World fourteen cultures are represented through items from near and far: Egypt, France, Britain, America, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Korea, Mexico, Greece, China, Kenya and India each have a spread or page devoted to items including clothing,

musical instruments, buildings, jewellery, and much more.

Both are, like the rest of the series absolutely superb for developing language as well as being a brilliant way to introduce history and culture to your little ones, especially if you can combine it with a museum visit too.
If you can’t, worry not: each has an index as well as QR codes linking to additional information about each object featured.

Enormously worthwhile to add to bookshelves at home, or in an early years setting.

Look, a Butterfly!
Yasunari Murakami
Gecko Press

This lovely little board book is by award-winning Japanese artist/designer/author, Yasunari Murakami who is also an environmentalist and lover of wild-life. It begins with an irresistible invitation to notice, and then follow the journey of a butterfly as it explores what a flower garden has to offer.

We see the flower buds pop open and burst into a host of colours;

watch the little creature pause for a drink of nectar and revived, flit and flutter again before coming to rest upon a playful kitten.

This of course precipitates a game of flap and tease before the butterfly finally flies away.

Beautifully simple and attractively illustrated, it gives you an injection of joie-de-vivre and is perfectly honed  to be just right for sharing with tinies. Catch hold of this one before the butterflies disappear for the season.

Little Boat
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

Life lessons Little Boat style will delight fans of Taro Gomi’s previous Little Truck especially.

Here we follow Little Boat as he determinedly manoeuvres his way through bigger boats including a snarling one, braves the rough seas and stormy weather

until after his testing adventures, he finally meets his parent boat once more in calm waters.

Short and sweet: splendid entertainment for little ones and a great demonstration of remaining positive no matter what.

Little Owl’s First Day / This is the Way We Go to School

Little Owl’s First Day
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Leaving a parent to begin school or nursery for the very first time, particularly when a younger sibling is still at home, can be a bit bothersome for little ones and so it is for Little Owl.

We first met the delightful character when a new sibling arrived and now he’s facing his first day at school.

When he wakes up on the big day, he isn’t feeling full of excitement as his Mummy Owl anticipates; instead the little fellow doesn’t even want to get out of bed. “I want a small day. I want to stay at home with you and Baby Owl,” he tells her.

After a lot of cajoling, they’re all ready to sally forth but then Little Owl is reluctant to pick up his new owlbag. Eventually, with Little Owl calling the tune, he sets off pushing his baby in the pram while Mummy carries his bag.

At the school door Miss Oopik is ready with a welcoming greeting; and reassuring farewell’s over, Little Owl is gently encouraged to try his wing at painting.

His picture is Mummy and Baby Owl moonbound in a rocket, and they seem to occupy his every thought for a considerable part of the morning until snack time is announced. And then it looks as though Little Owl might just have found a friend as he and Tiny Owl share the contents of their owlbags with one another.

The rest of the session seems to pass in a flash before Miss Oopik calls them all together for a story.

Soon, who should be waiting outside but Mummy and Baby Owl; but Little Owl is much too sleepy to tell them all about how he spent his time.

Debi Gliori’s gently humorous tale is a real situation soother that will embrace a first timer like a warm comfort blanket, especially since it’s woven together with Alison Brown’s scenes of adorable strigine characters small and not so small.

This is the Way We Go to School
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

Ideal for little ones about to start, or already at nursery or playschool, is this board book version of a favourite song, complete with sliders. With these your child can help the little tigers in the early morning to get out of bed; eat their breakfast, brush their teeth

and walk to school, where they smilingly wave a farewell to their parents before rushing inside to join their friends.
In addition to the sliders that facilitate getting up, teeth brushing and waving, there’s a wheel to turn that brings into view a host of other animals all hurrying schoolwards.

Both the tigers’ home, and the journey to school spreads have plenty of interesting details for little humans to spot and discuss.

Inside the front cover, is a QR code to scan onto a phone or tablet and download that provides a sing along version of the song.

Toby and the Tricky Things

Toby and the Tricky Things
Lou Peacock and Christine Pym
Nosy Crow

If the consequence of young Toby’s burgeoning independence – able to pour his own milk, read his own bedtime stories and reach the snacks intended “just for mummies” – means bothersome breakfast,

‘Bad Buttons’, for an entire day, ‘Wrong Wellies’ likewise and even worse, problematic pants and loopy loo paper, then Mummy Elephant’s Big Boy isn’t happy.

Even when he’s managed to get her attention for two minutes on account of the bathroom disaster, Baby Iris is demanding that attention YET AGAIN! Hmmm!

If that’s how it’s to be, then Toby is off on his own Big Boy’s adventure.

Suitcase packed with potentially useful toys, garden door successfully opened, stairs down duly descended, he’s off flying solo on the swing.

Soon though hunger pangs strike and a sudden downpour dampens his spirits (and those Toys That Might Be Useful aren’t at all so), then who should be there, just at the right moment with words of comfort and encouragement but his very own Mummy Elephant.

Yes, there will still be occasions when sharing a Mummy will be the trickiest of all things but now Toby knows that however big he gets, he will always be her baby.

Lou Peacock’s gently humorous tale looks at one of those bothersome situations that many older siblings have to contend with, doing so in a reassuring warm-hearted manner that will surely resonate with adults and children alike.

Samuel and Ruby absorbed in the story

The Elephant family as portrayed by Christine Pym is absolutely enchanting. She captures the changing feelings of Toby wonderfully and Mum’s love of her offspring shines out despite her obvious dilemma of being torn between two little ones. “Hey, I know that story,” one of my listeners said of the book being shared by the three characters on the back cover.

When the Moon Smiled / Vehicles ABC

When the Moon Smiled
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
Full of twinkling charm is this board book version of a favourite Petr Horáček counting story.

One evening the moon rises to discover that everything down below has gone topsy-turvy. The animals that should have been awake are nowhere in sight while those that ought to have been asleep are still awake.

Time to light the stars and set things right, thinks the moon. And so he does, one by one.

The first star lit sends the dog into the land of nod; the second is for the two cats; they stretch and go out on the prowl.

Then in turn he goes on to light a star, for, the three cows, four bats,

five pigs, six foxes, seven geese, eight mice, nine sheep and finally, the tenth star is for the moths.

Now the entire sky is full of stars shining down over the farm and all’s right with the world.

It’s a perfect bedtime story for little ones, so written in a lyrical manner and illustrated in mixed media by Horáček, as to induce a feeling of somnolence.

Children will love to join in counting the stars and animals along with the moon as he alternates between setting to rights the diurnal and nocturnal creatures, before falling fast asleep themselves.

Vehicles ABC
Jannie Ho
Nosy Crow

Just right for introducing an assortment of 26 means of transport, from ambulance to zeppelin, is this alphabetic array of vehicles that run on land, move across water or fly through the air.

If your child’s at that stage, it’s great for learning letters of the alphabet by name and also the initial sounds; although electric car and ice-cream van, unicycle, Queen Mary and express train will need a bit of extra talking about (one of the snags of phonics).

With bold bright images against equally bright backgrounds to enjoy, the sounds of the various vehicles to make – both you and your toddler can have fun being inventive over this – plus possibilities such as wheels, lack of, who might drive and countless other possible things to talk about, this little board book is simply bursting with a wealth of language learning potential.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam The Missing Masterpiece

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam The Missing Masterpiece
Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton
Nosy Crow

A fox with a penchant for paintings – really? Yes really; one going by the name of Cunningham Sly and he steals them – in Paris no less.

However, that’s where the famous canine bakers Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam have just arrived with a special commission, to create a culinary edifice – a gingerbread Eiffel Tower- in time for the opening of the art exhibition at Galerie Bonbon. With only an hour to complete their work before the doors open, there’s not a second to lose despite the fact that Sam has spotted a ‘wanted’ poster displayed outside and is already on the alert.

En route to the kitchen Sam points out the location of a masterpiece, so he thinks, to Shifty, but his pal is on his way back to their van to collect something they’d left therein.

Once in the kitchen Sam is surprised to encounter a dapper-looking vulpine character and has a strange feeling he looks familiar. The dapper gent however assures him this can’t be so on account of his being an artist who spends all his time indoors on his work. Sam is impressed. But then as he dashes to inform his pal, they see something alarming and immediately, the chase is on.

Can they apprehend the wily thief and if so, will that dip in the River Seine have ruined the priceless Bone-a-Lisa portrait;

or is there perhaps a possibility that two masterpieces, one culinary and one artistic will be on view for the celebratory opening party of the exhibition?

Time after time in this series Tracey delivers a faultless rhyming narrative that is sheer delight to read aloud and full of tasty titbits. Steven Lenton’s scenes with their Parisian backdrop, portray with panache, the bakers’ plight as they strive to complete their double task and avert disaster. (There’s that spider to spot on every spread too.)

Another successful culinary caper with the crime busting canine duo: this would make a cracking TV cartoon or even perhaps, a stage show.

Make & Play Safari

Make & Play Safari
Joey Chou
Nosy Crow

This latest Make and Play theme will last all year round and enthuse young makers with a variety of activities, the most important being the construction of a safari scene, once the various pieces from the first eight pages have been pressed out and slotted together.

You get a jeep transporting a family of enthusiastic-looking safari goers with cameras and map,

zebras and a hippo, a lion family, two giraffes, a pair of crocodiles, meerkats, another hippo, an adult and infant elephant, a couple of monkeys to swing in a tree, a rhino and another tree with a leopard resting in its branches.

With these sturdy items – both sides of each piece is coloured – children can create and re-create different small world scenes and then carefully replace the various parts back in the equally robust card pages. (Very small children will need a little assistance in the construction and replacing of parts.)

Joey Chou’s art will appeal to youngsters, as will the activities on the other spreads. The crafty ideas are making a ‘bendy monkey’ and a pair of binoculars; the foodie ones are, a yummy snake sandwich and equally tasty-looking animal cupcakes; instructions are provided for creating a safari map to use in a game outdoors.

The words of a ‘Five Little Monkeys’ song take up another spread. I would have chosen another Five Little Monkeys song that has the monkeys swinging from a tree teasing Mr Crocodile, as it seems to fit the overall theme better, but that’s a small criticism.

All in all this is excellent value and should engage young users for a considerable time, not just the once, but over and over.

Are You Hungry? / Lois Looks for Bob at the Seaside & Lois Looks for Bob at the Museum

Are You Hungry?
Janik Coat and Bernard Duisit
Thames & Hudson

There’s a veritable feast contained within the few pages of this new addition to the ‘Flip-Flap-Pop-Up series from author/illustrator Janik Coat and paper engineer extraordinaire, Bernard Duisit.

Starting on Monday, we move through the week with an animal per day sharing a culinary delight or two with us. Or should I say that perhaps not all have such mouth-watering allure.

and, while some will meet with parental approval, others probably will not.

Sunday brings a wonderful pop-up spread of treats to keep one little bear going for several days; let’s hope he remembers to brush his teeth like the rabbit on the final spread.

Playfully interactive, each spread has either a wheel to turn, tab to pull, or pop-up to unfold.
Hours of fun for small hands guaranteed from this sturdily built little book.

Lois Looks for Bob at the Seaside
Lois Looks for Bob at the Museum

Gerry Turley
Nosy Crow

Those who have met Bob in previous books will know that he likes nothing better than a game of hide-and-seek with faithful feathered friend, Lois, a game in which toddlers can take part by lifting the variously shaped flaps he might be hidden under.

The beach is the setting for the first story where we also meet, seagull Geoffrey, turtle Maureen, Victor the crab and wait for it – fish Dolores, Mike and Fay.

Where can he possibly be?

Raf (15 months) is eager to find Bob …

In the second book we visit a museum and once again Lois looks for her elusive pal even starting her hunt before entering the place. He’s not behind the curtain, or the painting; he’s not among the vases, nor in the broom cupboard.
We do discover a variety of other creatures in those places but not Bob. Then, what about the café? Could he be there perhaps?

There’s plenty to amuse and involve young listeners in these two additions to the series, although adult sharers will likely have a good giggle over the wry humour, not least in this spread.

Seashore Watcher / Complete Minibeast Explorer’s Kit

Seashore Watcher
Maya Plass
QED

If you are heading to the coast and in particular the seashore, then here’s a handy information book, cleverly enclosed within a zipped waterproof plastic folder.

From pebbles to plankton, corals to crabs and starfish to sharks, the seashore comes to life through photographs,

facts, tips, safety recommendations and more.

Whether you want to be a seashore watcher observing seals, seabirds or dolphins and porpoises, try your hand as a sand sculptor, get creative using things you’ve collected on the beach, help with beach cleaning, or even collect seaweed and try the recipe for jelly, you’re bound to find something to make your seaside visit exciting and worthwhile.

The back matter includes notes for adults, a glossary and index.

You’ll certainly get more out of your seaside foray if you tuck a copy of this informative and engaging book, compiled by marine and coastal ecologist Maya Plass, in your bag.

National Trust: Complete Minibeast Explorer’s Kit
Robyn Swift and Hannah Alice
Nosy Crow

Here’s the ideal thing to encourage children to get out and discovering about the wealth of minibeasts that are all around us.

Enclosed within the backpack are a guide book for explorers featuring more than 60 creatures and containing a wealth of information about identification, habitats, lifecycles and more; a small blank notebook in which to record observations, and a magnifying minibeast collector for enthusiasts to look closely at beetles, caterpillars, spiders, slugs, worms and anything else of interest.

I’ve just returned from a walk along the canal not far from where I live and was able on my return, (I hadn’t taken the book) to identify the small red beetle I saw on cow parsley as a Soldier Beetle using the illustration from the guide book. Hannah Alice’s clear illustrations are somewhat stylised but easily recognisable.

In addition to the fascinating facts provided by Robyn Swift – did you know that even if a cockroach has its head cut off, it can live for up to nine days? I certainly didn’t before reading it here -at the back of the book there’s an index, a glossary, a quiz, a scale guide and a classification chart.

Just the kind of kit to whet the appetites of potential young naturalists.

The Misadventures of Winnie and Wilbur / Get Me Out of Witch School!

The Misadventures of Winnie and Wilbur
Laura Owen and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

It’s good to have the ever-popular picture book duo, Winnie the Witch and her cat Wilbur, in another chapter book format edition.
This one has eight short stories, each one profusely illustrated by Korky Paul in his distinctive zany style.

In the first, Winnie gets her knickers in a bit of a twist when her new enterprise isn’t quite the resounding success she’d hoped, but then Winnie doesn’t exactly employ the kind of sales talk that will have her new products whizzing off the shelves.

No matter: the ingenious uses she finds for her unwanted wares are bound to give readers a good giggle.

The second story has Winnie cooking up a feast for her interfering sister Wilma. It’s not the special fresh batburgers she originally planned – she hasn’t the heart to serve up relations of her ’diddly bat’ friend – but, thanks to some timely assistance from Wilbur, Wilma leaves after supper thoroughly satisfied with her meal.
That should suffice to give you a flavour of the hilarious escapades within; the others being concerned with bothersome bubbles, a whopping great whale and other fishy findings, a car boot sale with a difference,

some high drama in a big top, extraordinary doings at a soccer game involving the odd bit of knicker elastic zapping and finally, a spot of excavating.
Sheer hilarity from beginning to end, and perfect read alone fare as well as a hoot to read aloud.

More witchy shenanigans in:

Get Me Out of Witch School!
Em Lynas, illustrated by Jamie Littler
Nosy Crow

In the second book of Daisy Wart’s adventures at Toadspit Towers, Witch School of Conformity and Strickness, the reluctant young witch is now known as Twinkle Toadspit.
She’s yet to gain full control of her witchy powers and still holds ambitions to be an actress. But when she determines to rescue a ‘cute, cuddly kitten’ Twinkle inadvertently sets off a chain of chaotic happenings.
It’s down to Twinkle and her pals to save Toadspit Towers. Can they do so, and in time for the would-be star of stage to tour her “Bottom”?

Bursting with wonderful characters, this is total spellbinding fun to keep readers in suspense throughout. Equally it makes a thoroughly enjoyable read aloud for those not quite ready to fly solo. However it’s read, Jamie Littler’s illustrations add to the enjoyment.

What Does an Anteater Eat?

What Does an Anteater Eat?
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

Ross Collins will certainly have audiences spluttering with delight at the finale of what is essentially an extended joke of a book. That’s getting ahead of things though, so let’s go back to the beginning.

Surely any self-respecting anteater, even one that wakes up hungry, should not need to go around asking the various creatures he encounters one morning what he ought to be dining upon but that’s exactly what happens here.

The responses he gets range from an indolent “I’m very busy. Don’t bother me.” through some recommendations …

and helpful advice about thorough chewing (that’s from snake)to a lip-licking contemplation of the anteater’s own potential as a meal

until Anteater arrives at a large nest. Now surely the penny will drop so to speak at the sight of this …

It does, but perhaps not in quite the way we might have been anticipating.

This tongue-in-cheek tale is delivered with panache: the expressions on the faces of the animals – anteater’s and all the others’ are wonderfully droll as is the dialogue throughout.

Be sure to watch out for the tiny insects crawling through almost every spread clearly intent on a spot of nest building.

Welcome to Our World

Welcome to Our World
Moira Butterfield and Harriet Lynas
Nosy Crow

To open this book is to get lost in a world of children, children from 97 different countries and when you finally emerge having spent a considerable time immersed in its riches, you’ll be a whole lot wiser and probably happier too. I certainly was!

Covering such topics – I love the choice of headings – as greetings, homes, food, drinks, transport, animals, family names, school uniforms & classrooms, clothes, play – games …

and toys, musical instruments, as well as specific words for ‘happy’, ‘hooray’ …

and sneezing, customs (relating on one page, to losing a tooth), this book truly celebrates children, human diversity, language and world cultures

I was amused to learn that both in Brazil and Hungary children celebrating birthdays get their earlobes pulled. Ow! In Brazil it’s one pull for every year of the person’s life. Ow, ow, ow! … and in Hungary it’s customary to say ‘May your earlobes grow to your ankles’, in other words, ‘May you have a long life.’

Equally I was fascinated to find out about the different sounds animals make according to where they’re found: apparently in Germany, rather than buzzing, bees go ‘sum sum’, whereas in South Korea, it’s ‘wing wing’, ‘bun bun’ in Japan and ‘zoum zoum’ in Greece.

You too might laugh out loud at some of the sayings from various parts of the world: ‘Stop ironing my head’ means ‘Stop annoying me’ in Armenian and ‘There is no cow on the ice’ said in Swedish means ‘There’s no need to worry.’

The absorbing text by Moira Butterfield, in combination with Harriet Lynas’s captivating illustrations, make for a read that is both joyous and informative.

Go Wild on the River / Sharks, Seahorses and other British Sea Creatures

Go Wild on the River
Goldie Hawk and Rachael Saunders
Nosy Crow

This is a handy, pocket-sized book for young adventurers to read before they sally forth for some wild fun on or around a river.
It covers all the essentials starting with words about keeping safe, followed by what to take on your trip and what to wear.

There are river investigations such as ‘how deep is this river’ – important in case you want to cross it or investigate the creatures living in it, and measuring how fast the river is flowing. You can also measure the quality of the water by taking a sample and looking at the colour; this is clearly an important consideration for wildlife and there are lots of pages on the flora and fauna associated with rivers.

If you feel like emulating the beavers and building a dam, there’s a spread on how to do that too and should you feel like dangling above the water, there are instructions on making a tyre swing (adult help required for this).

The final pages (before a quiz) are concerned with safety and what to do should you get into trouble on the river – very important to read before any trip; and last but by no means least, there are words about showing respect for the environment.

Plenty of pithy advice as well as exciting ideas are packed into the 80 odd pages of this little handbook written by Goldie Hawk and illustrated (with gentle humour where appropriate), by Rachael Saunders.

Sharks, Seahorses and other British Sea Creatures
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow

The third in the super sticker book series published in collaboration with the National Trust, this one is bursting with creatures of all shapes and sizes that live close to, or under the sea.

We investigate a variety of homes by visiting the sandy shore, exploring the rocks, looking in rock pools, going right down to the seabed,

searching the shallows and going to the harbour.

Each beautifully illustrated spread provides facts about the relevant sea animals from scavenging seagulls to acrobatic dolphins, basking sharks to sponges and spiny sea urchins to seahorses.

There are 4 pages of stickers so you can adorn the appropriate pages with crabs, stingrays, seaweed, starfish and much more.

If you’re going to the seaside or contemplating a visit, then the 11 scenes herein will set your youngsters up for some marine spotting fun.

Oh me, oh my, a Pie!

Oh me, oh my, a Pie!
Jan Fearnley
Nosy Crow

Grandma bear – a nice old soul – has just baked a pie, a rather yummy-looking one at that.

She leaves it to cool and in a trice, a greedy fox has leapt in the window, seized the object and is making off to his lair for a feast. Fox however, forgets to look where he’s going and whoops! he takes a tumble, the pie flies out of his grasp and lands beside a hungry mouse.

Oh me, oh my,” says Mouse, intent on getting that yummy pie into his tummy as soon as possible and off he goes down the street professing same.

Who should be watching though but a greedy cat and you can guess what happens next.

Cat is the owner of the pie for barely a moment when  a nasty looking canine snatches it

and sets off homewards, only to lose it seconds later to Little Owl flying overhead.

The pie is big – too big for a small owl to manage to get back to her nest: down, down it falls, landing, perhaps you can guess where?

Right back at Grandma’s, just in time for tea, rapidly followed by a host of hungry animals all with their thoughts on the same thing.

Now, being as we were told at the outset, ‘a nice old grandma’, she invites them in to sample her pie, but only on one condition. They have to share.

I wonder if they can …

With a rhyming text that’s a treat to read aloud – especially with that oft repeated ‘oh me, oh my!’ refrain to join in with – and delectable illustrations full of wonderful details to linger over, Jan Fearnley has cooked up a delicious tale that’s destined to become a story time favourite.

Monty Monkey & Elsie Elephant / Happy Birthday to You!

Monty Monkey
Elsie Elephant

Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow

Two additions to the sound button series of stories both told in rhyme by Nikki Dyson.
Monty is a monkey that tires of his diet of bananas and searches the jungle for alternative ‘fruity treats’. He takes a pineapple belonging to some parrots, snatches a juicy mango from the mouth of Snake and helps himself to a couple of Aardvark’s coconuts. Just as he’s about to tuck in, along comes a large gorilla and …

Elsie lives on the plains and one night she decides to stay up and play. The trouble is she wants other animals to play with her, animals that would far rather be fast asleep under the starry skies.
Will she ever snuggle down for some shut-eye and if so, when?

Despite the brevity of these stories, their main characters, have, in Nikki Dyson’s illustrations real personalities that very young children can relate to. Those same children will delight in pressing the sound buttons that make authentic monkey and elephant sounds.

Happy Birthday to You!
Nicola Slater
Nosy Crow

Bear, Badger and Cat set out, each with a musical instrument: Bear plays her flute, Badger his guitar, Cat her violin and they all seem to be heading for the same destination. What could it be?
Then along comes little Otter. He too turns up at the same place as the other animals. Could there be a special celebration within?
Find out in this jolly interactive board book; it includes music and a special final light-up surprise.

Just right for sharing on a toddler’s special day.

The Colours of History / So You Think Yo’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Egypt

The Colours of History
Clive Gifford and Marc-Etienne Peintre
QED

There have been several books on the theme of colour recently: now here is one that takes a historical approach with the subtitle ‘How Colours Shaped the World’.

After an introduction to the world of colour, there are five main sections: Yellows (which includes orange), Reds, taking in ‘Mummy Brown’), Purples, Blues, Greens and then a spread on ‘Colours that made their mark’ that looks at
kohl black, graphite, lime and lead wash.

Over twenty colours – divided into shades – are explored with each different shade being allocated a double spread that includes an arresting illustration by Marc-Etienne Peintre, related historical facts, associated symbolism and often, a relevant quote. There is also an introductory paragraph for each colour group supplying connotative meanings.

Did you know that the predominant colour of the prehistoric Lascaux Cave paintings was yellow ochre,

or that saffron comes from a particular crocus species grown mainly in Spain and Iran?
Or that cochineal, still used in some lipsticks, is actually a tiny insect that when crushed, yields a scarlet colour due to the carminic acid it carries to protect itself from predatory ants?

One of my favourite blues, ultramarine, is made by grinding one of my favourite semi-precious gemstones lapis lazuli – a fact I knew, but I was intrigued to learn that the artist Vermeer’s heavy use of the colour in his paintings left him heavily in debt when he died.

This inviting and rewarding book will be of particular interest to those with a liking for art or history and is well worth adding to a primary school library.

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

Guaranteed to bring on giggles galore is this look at ancient history Egyptian style published in collaboration with the British Museum. It presents history like you’ve never seen or even imagined it before – from the children’s viewpoint.

A variety of topics is covered – clothing and hairstyles, family life, the home, work – parents introduced the idea of work to their offspring at an early age.

There are sections on education – formal school outside the home was mostly only for boys and rich ones at that, and  diet – raw cabbage was a popular starter and pigeons were often served (along with geese, ducks and oxen if you were well off)

and even children drank beer back in those days.

Medicine and health – apparently the mother of a sick child might eat a mouse and then put its bones in a bag and dangle it around the child’s neck to effect a cure; protection and gods, and fun and games are also explored. Popular pastimes for the young included swimming, boating and games by the river, although, you had to keep a watch out for hungry crocs or hippos. Ball games were often played too, though not football, and the balls were made from papyrus or leather stuffed with straw.

Humorously illustrated with a multitude of labels and speech bubbles, and packed with fascinating facts, yes it’s light-hearted, but children will absorb a lot of information from this unashamedly zany book.

Board Book Collection

Tales from Nature: Rabbit
illustrated by Magali Attiogbé
Tales from Nature: Bird
illustrated by Olivia Cosneau
QED
These two books are the first in a series of wildlife board book nature stories for the very young.
In each, the animal in question acts as narrator.
Rabbit tells how he finds food in the garden; runs fast into his burrow when he catches sight of a potential predator and finally, when winter’s over, meets a doe and together they produce a litter.
Bird talks of being greedy as she feasts on a little caterpillar that’s nibbling through some leaves. Love is in the air come spring when Bird sings, finds a mate, builds a nest, lays three eggs and hatches her babies.
Both tales are simply told through a spare text, and each has die cut holes and flaps to encourage exploration of the nicely textured pastel illustrations.
Engaging introductions to nonfiction texts for toddlers.

More bird encounters in the first of these:

Listen to the Birds from around the world
Listen to the Music from around the world
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow

What toddler can resist the invitation to hear the sound of,  in turn, the mynah bird, the kingfisher, a whistling lorikeet, a toucan, a penguin on the ice and some wading flamingos, when all they have to do is press the button strategically placed on each of Marion Billet’s alluring spreads?
No doubt your home or nursery will become a temporary menagerie when you share this enticing little board book.
In the same series is Listen to the Music from around the world wherein a guitar-strumming turtle, a panda violinist, a bagpipe playing sheep, a harmonica blowing donkey, a bongo banging Croc. and a bull with flamenco guitar perform. Noisy fun, but you can always turn off the sound button at the back of the book.

Hello Farm
Hello Zoo

Nicola Slater
Nosy Crow

In these jolly little books we meet stripy cat, Ludo, who likes to discover new places to play.
At the farm he visits first the barn, home of cow family where Bianca is ready to join his fun. So off they go to call on the chickens in their henhouse and invite the baby chicks to join them. Little lambs, Eric, Clem and Finn are also eager for some fun but then Ludo hears snoring; one of his friends is still fast asleep but a bit of tummy tickling will help get him moving and then finally all the pals head for the paddling pool for a dip.
The pattern is similar for Hello Zoo except that Ludo cycles off to collect his wild animal pals in their various zoo abodes, on this occasion discovering Minty the panda in need of some toe tickling to rouse her from her slumbers before they all go off to find the bouncy castle.
Nicola Slater’s bright, jolly scenes with die-cut holes, flaps and squidgy tactile areas to explore are part and parcel of these simple toddler stories whose questioning narratives involve young listeners from the start.

The Knight Who Said “No!”

The Knight Who Said “No!”
Lucy Rowland and Kate Hindley
Nosy Crow

Ned had always been a biddable, obedient little knight complying with each and every one of his parents’ wishes,

and always come nightfall running indoors to hide from the dragon as she swept through the sky. One night as he watches the dragon from the safety of his bedroom window, Ned wonders if, like himself, the dragon is lonely.

Next morning – the day of the tournament – a change has come over the lad. A firm “No” is his response to every request from his parents and the townsfolk alike. When the dragon whooshes through the sky and lands at Ned’s feet, he accosts the creature, inquiring about her lack of roar.

The dragon’s response brings about a mood shift in Ned …

and thereafter, an unlikely new friendship is forged.

Lucy Rowlands’ rhyming text bounces merrily and faultlessly along, providing join-in ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ opportunities for listeners who will delight in Ned’s sudden attack of recalcitrance and its final outcome. Kate Hindley documents the whole saga with wonderful scenes of days of yore village life capturing not only Ned’s mood changes, but also the dragon’s and the bit part players’ characters, absolutely splendidly.

A potential storytime favourite, methinks.

Creative Manipulations – Nature Origami & From Morning to Night

Nature Origami
Clover Robin
Nosy Crow

You’re in for hours of pleasure from this origami book published in collaboration with the National Trust. Containing thirteen nature inspired things to make from shells to squirrels and snails, and minnows to moths and mice, each one is allocated a double spread with a beautiful illustration by Clover Robinson on the verso while the recto has concise step-by-step instructions prefaced by a short poem by poets including Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetta, Lilian McCrea, Kenneth Grahame

and William Wordsworth.
The back part of the book is a pad of 50 sheets patterned on one side, plain on the other, which are the ideal size and weight for the projects.
Each of the projects is graded, there being a mix of each of the three levels of difficulty, the third level requiring considerable dexterity, not to mention a degree of patience.
If you scan the QR code inside the book you will be able to link to ‘how to’ videos for each object.

From Morning to Night
Flavia Ruotolo
Princeton Architectural Press

Flavia Ruotolo has a design background which she uses to great effect in this little book that plays with line, colour and form, creating sixteen pairs of objects manipulating the elements of the ordinary one to fashion something new.
She uses just two complementary colours to play with so that for instance a morning meal becomes a magic mushroom …

an orange becomes a planet, a piano is transformed into a robot toy and an open book morphs into a pair of adjacent beds.

It’s easy to see the visual relationships between the pairs but imagination is required to link for example, an orange segment on a plate with a crescent moon in orbit around a planet.
I’m all for books that help in the development of the imagination: this one certainly does that in a playful way and at the same time offers plenty of opportunities for storying. It might also encourage readers to try their own creative manipulations.

Wild World, The Coral Kingdom and Who’s Hiding on the River? / Who’s Hiding on the Farm?

Wild World
Angela McAllister, Hvass & Hannibal
Wide Eyed Editions

The author has chosen thirteen natural habitats – Rainforest, Arctic, Prairie, Woodland, Coral reef, Desert, Rock pool, Mountain, The Outback, Moorland, Deep sea, Mangrove and Savannah – that are under threat due to human activity, and captures the essence of each one in a series of free verses.
Here’s the opening to Mountain:
‘I am the highest mountain, / Born in a collision of continents. / All is beneath me, except the sun, moon and stars. / I am rock, / Crag, cliff and ledge, draped in veils of white. / I am snow-maker, with glaciers in my arms, / Whose meltwater swells great rivers below.’

In stark contrast is the quieter sounding Savannah, which opens like this: ‘Savannah speaks in whispering grasses, / In the chatter of cicadas across an endless plain. / Spacious homeland of swift cheetah / And gazelle, with the horizon in her eye.’

Using matte colours, the illustrators Hvass and Hannibal showcase the flora and fauna of each location in a series of eye-catching paintings that incorporate the text within them.

Human use, climate change and pollution are responsible for the damage to the environment and after her introductory poem, it’s not until the final pages that the author enlarges upon her conservation message citing the specific damage within the thumbnail sketch of each of the places portrayed. Thereafter she implores readers to use less energy, to recycle and to buy with care.

We’d all do well to keep in mind her final words about our precious planet: ‘Explore it, protect it, love it. / Our Earth is a wonderful wild world. ‘

Also with an ecological message is:

The Coral Kingdom
Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber
Words & Pictures

Our coral reefs, with their gorgeous colours: crimson, red, rose, yellow,

turquoise, emerald, jade, purple, even black, that have taken 1000s of years to grow and give home to a myriad of creatures large and small are under threat.

When the coral is bleached white due to acidity caused by climate change, and stays white for too long, then the reef dies.

Laura Knowles has written a rhyming narrative that outlines the life cycle of a reef and includes a caution that unless we humans take action these amazing ecosystems will be lost forever.

Jennie Webber’s detailed watercolour illustrations show the beauty of the undersea habitat and a final fold-out page gives additional information about coral reef conservation.

A useful addition to a primary school conservation topic box, or, for a child interested in ocean life or ecosystems.

Who’s Hiding on the River? / Who’s Hiding on the Farm?
Katharine McEwen
Nosy Crow

It’s never too early to start learning about nature and here are two board books just right for introducing animals, some wild and some domesticated, to the very young.

Both are beautifully illustrated by Katharine McEwen and there are lots of animals to find in both locations.

Toddlers can spend a day by the river, from a busy morning through to night-time as they explore the pages, manipulate the sturdy flaps in response to the ‘Who’s hiding here?’ on every right hand page to discover tadpoles, cygnets, fish, dragonflies, a stoat, a beaver and more as they swim, wriggle, wade, leap, build and paddle.
The farm book also moves through the day in similar fashion and McEwen’s text is carefully worded to introduce new vocabulary including ‘pecking,’ ‘trotting’, ‘snoozing’ ‘prowling’, munching’ and ‘diving’ along the way.

Published in collaboration with the National Trust these are fun and at the same time, gently educational.

A Bear is a Bear

A Bear is a Bear (except when he’s not)
Karl Newson and Anuska Allepuz
Nosy Crow

The adorable looking bear in this book appears to be suffering from amnesia as to his true animal form, brought about by forgetting that come December he’s supposed to be snuggled down inside his cave for the long winter hibernation.

Instead the ursine creature is bumbling around pondering possibilities: might he perhaps be a bird …

Oops no! He can’t fly and as for fitting in the nest – forget it!

If not that, then maybe … a moose? Lack of antlers and an aversion to dry grass quickly put paid to that notion.
What about a dancing prancing fox or even a squirrel? Those don’t feel quite right either.
Stuck up in a tree, bear ponders: “I’m not a squirrel – /they climb too high. // I’m not a fox – / but I gave it a try. // I’m not a moose – / I don’t know why. // And I’m not a bird. / I cannot fly. // So what, oh what / on earth am I?

As snowflakes whirl around his head that Bear should really be in bed, especially as he is now suffering a bad attack of the grumps to go with his memory loss.

Suddenly realisation dawns … and off he goes to sleep till spring. Sweet dreams! Spring isn’t too far away.

Now, look who’s come a knocking to greet their friend …

BEAR!
Karl’s rhyming text takes the form of Bear’s internal monologue as he wanders hither and thither in his state of forgetfulness, and with its repeat refrain and cumulative structure, it’s a great ‘join in with’ read aloud.

To render her mixed media scenes of the increasingly wintry forest and its animal inhabitants, Anuska Alleppuz has used a carefully considered, beautifully textured palette that really makes readers feel they’re with Bear every step of his journey – the highs and the lows – both physical and mental.

Books for Tiny Hands

A Tiny Little Story: Farm
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
In the third title of the series the adorable Baby Boo and his mum pay a visit to the farm. They meet the farmer in his tractor,

a mother hen and her baby chicks, the cow, the sheep, some pigs and a cockerel, each of which greets the visitors with its characteristic sound; and then it’s time to leave.
With its soft, squidgy pages, simple, bold, patterned images and a Velcro buggy strap, this boxed book, like its predecessors, is just perfect for giving to a new mum and her baby.

Animal ABC
Jannie Ho
Nosy Crow
Having explored Halloween and Christmas, Jannie Ho’s third ABC book for babies and toddlers features animals large and small, some familiar, others less so, from elephant to narwhal and iguana and owl. One fantasy animal – a unicorn – puts in an appearance too.
Boldly illustrated with just the single word and corresponding letter as text per page, there are talk opportunities aplenty in this sturdily designed little board book. Which ones have long tails? Which have horns? Can your infant think of what noise each animal might produce?
Full of animal fun for sure.

Little Truck
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
In this lovely little board book toddlers share a day in the life of a little pink truck. He’s a fast mover and determined hill climber and is accompanied on his travels by a larger (parent) truck.
The latter is available to give a gentle push up the steep slope …

and when Little Truck enters a dark tunnel, is right behind to ensure he’s not completely lost and is ready to carry the little one when he falls fast asleep.
With a simple text, some of which is addressed to the Little Truck by the larger one, Taro Gomi uses his wonderful minimalist style to imbue both trucks with distinct personalities as well as creating stylised background scenes in contrasting greys, browns and tans.
I love that Little Truck is pink and identified as male in the narrative.

Where’s Mrs Zebra?
Where’s Mr Dog?

Ingela P.Arrhenuis
Nosy Crow
Just right for some playful book sharing time with your baby are these two hide-and-seek board books.
Each one contains five scenes with bold, bright images and an animal that has hidden itself behind an appropriately shaped, brightly coloured felt flap on the spread.
In the first title Mr Rhino, Mrs Gorilla,

Mr Flamingo, Mrs Zebra are hidden or almost so and the final spread has a hidden mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
The same question concludes the second book wherein Mr Dog, along with Mrs Cat, Mr Mouse, and Mrs Rabbit have tucked themselves away behind various objects all waiting to be discovered by tiny hands.
Award winning Swedish illustrator Ingela P. Arrhenius has illustrated both with just the right amount of detail for the very youngest infant.

Guess Which Hand?
Hans Wilhelm and Ilaria Guarducci
Chronicle Books
Here’s a little board book based on the ever popular guessing game after which the book is titled.
On each of eight pages toddlers are invited to guess the location of the item be it a ladybird or frog, a bone or ball, flower or feather, pink fish or blue, banana or peanut, carrot or clover leaves, star or moth, hidden under one or other of the flaps on each animal’s page. Paws, ears, scallop shells,

hats, fluffy tails, wings and eggs are in turn used as hiding places. The objects are moved by turning the interactive wheel at the side of each page so you can play the game over and over with a toddler.
Each bold bright scene offers more to talk about than the guessing game though but that depends on the users.

Just Like Mummy / Superhero Mum

Just Like Mummy
Lucy Freegard
Pavilion Books

Following on from last year’s Just Like Daddy, Lucy Freegard turns her attention to mums, especially the one featured here.

The young narrator introduces his/her special super-talented mum– full of fun, both creative and practical, ready to offer some words of wisdom at just the right time and provider of cuddles whenever they’re needed. Who wouldn’t want to have a mother like that, and perhaps, to have those qualities when they grow up? Certainly that is what the little leopard here is aiming for. (We don’t know the gender so the story works well for all.)

I suspect any youngster would wish for a mother who spends so much time with her child be that making music, gardening, exploring or whatever, and the cub really does appreciate this togetherness.

It’s important to acknowledge that things don’t always go exactly how we’d like them to; there are sad times, challenging times and inevitably, times when we make mistakes, and so it is here.

Lucy Freegard’s expressive illustrations do a great job of encompassing both the highs and lows of everyday life in a book that is perfect for sharing and discussing with pre-schoolers, and especially, it’s a lovely story for giving to a special mum on Mother’s Day.

Superhero Mum
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow

We had Superhero Dad and now Knapman and Berger even things up with a companion title about mums.

The narrative is an upbeat rhyming celebration of all the things that make them so amazing. Mums, and in particular this little girl narrator’s mum, is on the go from morning till night, whizzing around, often multi-tasking.

Whether it’s making sure we catch the bus to school,

inventing and participating in energetic playground games, administering first aid,

joining in with bath time fun, seeking out a favourite lost toy, or sharing a bedtime story, she always delivers.

In short, she’s an inspiration to every would-be super hero girl (or boy come to that.)

It takes someone special to do all these things with a smile on her face and that’s how Joe Berger’s comic book coloured, action-packed scenes portray her in every one of these seemingly ordinary, everyday activities that could be easily taken for granted.

I’ve signed the charter  

First Words / Animals and Baby Duck / Baby Koala

First Words
Animals

Nosy Crow
Here are two new additions to the ‘Early Learning at the Museum’ series published in collaboration with The British Museum.

Once again each title features an assortment of fascinating objects from the museum’s collection, so that in addition to helping children to learn the names of the items featured, the colour photographs introduce them to a range of cultural images from all over the world.

As well as the wonderful Chinese cotton shoes shown on the cover, the amazing objects in First Words include another pair of shoes (Dutch wooden clogs), an aluminium toy bike from India and these …

Animals has creatures great and small from camels to cats and parrots to a polar bear. I was particularly attracted to the Malaysian shadow puppet shown at the centre of this spread …

and the woodcut of ‘two mallards’ by British artist Allen William Seaby,

Both books offer hours of early learning enjoyment and are great for encouraging curiosity and talk well beyond the mere naming of the items.

If you have a toddler, or work in an early years setting, I recommend adding these two to your book collection.

Baby Duck
Baby Koala

illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books

Attractively illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, here are two new additions to the chunky finger puppet series that introduces tinies to a range of baby animals and their everyday lives. Each with an attached plush finger-puppet, these are playful, interactive, help to develop vocabulary and offer a good way for adult and infant to start building a love of books.

Lionel and the Lion’s Share

Lionel and the Lion’s Share
Lou Peacock and Lisa Sheenan
Nosy Crow

Lionel is a lion with sharing a problem – a big one; in fact he does NOT like to share at all. More than that, he’ll go out of his way to prevent one of the other animals from having something they really want.

On Monday he’s in the music shop choosing himself an instrument and is certainly spoilt for choice. Elsa elephant is also shopping there and has set her heart on the shiny tambourine when who should snatch it from her grasp to add to the drum and tuba he’s already clutching but greedy Lionel.

A similar thing happens on Tuesday in the hat shop. Lionel needs but a single hat but has already purchased ten when he notices Benji eyeing up the banana titfa. No prizes for guessing who grabs that one for himself too …

And so it goes on: Wednesday sees him disappointing Rosie rabbit and on Thursday at Chloe’s party …

he scoffs the entire cake., again claiming it only right he gets’ “the lion’s share.” Cries of ‘I wish you would share’ are now replaced with a chorus of “we wish you would share.
This time however, with Chloe in tears, the other animals have had enough of Lionel’s greed and tell him what they think of him in no uncertain terms.

It’s a furious lion that stomps off home but by the time he reaches there, he has come to a very important realisation: it’s time to make amends …
Can Lionel save the day after all?

With opportunities for joining in with the “That’s not fair, Lionel” protestation of the other animals and his “But I’m a lion … and I get the lion’s share” responses, this is a great book to share and discuss with young children.
Lisa Sheenan’s scenes of greed and disappointment capture the animals’ feelings beautifully and each spread offers plenty to interest and explore.

Ellena enjoying the story.

Look, there’s a Tractor; Look, there’s a Helicopter / I Love You Little One

Look, there’s a Tractor!
Look, there’s a Helicopter!

Esther Aarts
Nosy Crow
Here’s a pair of board book adventures for the very youngest.
In the Tractor a rhyming narrative guides young listeners as they climb aboard and accompany the farmer and his dog on a search around the farm for a missing hen.

Strategically placed die-cut holes help move the story forward towards the final surprise finale.
In the Helicopter book we join the pilot as she takes her machine out on a rescue mission to save a family and their dog from a sinking boat.

This one also has the same ‘Follow-the-holes’ feature. I think the rhyme works better in the tractor tale though.

I Love You, Little One
Holly Surplice
Nosy Crow
If you want a super-cute board book to share with your little one then look no further than this outpouring of love from a mother guinea pig to her infant.
Actually though, she says words cannot express the strength of her feelings, so instead actions do the speaking – through her pride in little guinea pig’s artistic creations; the songs she sings for him and the music they create together, the baking they share in.

Then there are those moments when some TLC is required …

Most of all though, is the idea – a magical one – that wherever Mummy guinea pig is, be it near or far, her love for her little one is always there and so it will always be.
Told through a rhyming text and adorable illustrations, this could have been sickly sweet but it isn’t; the showing makes sure of that – both Holly’s and the mother guinea pig’s.

Firefly Home

Firefly Home
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

The second interactive picture book from the Clarke and Teckentrup duo features another creature from the natural world, a little firefly called Florence, and she’s got lost.

It’s up to readers to help her find the way back home. There’s a problem though: there are so many flashing lights in the night sky that Florence follows lots of false leads.

Young listeners, more worldly wise than the little firefly will revel in anticipating the bright moon, the lighthouse beam,

the moving train and the brightly illuminated buildings in the city before the respective pages are turned, as well as responding to the verbal instructions given to help Florence on her long flight in search of her firefly friends.

The yellow used in Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations glows so intensely that I found myself wanting to check to see it there was a hidden battery somewhere.

A potential story-time favourite for early years listeners for sure. And shared one to one, it’s totally absorbing: each of my listeners has followed Jane Clarke’s instructions with gusto and been thrilled to be instrumental in Florence finally finding her way back to her friends.

Now in paperback is their Neon Leon, which I absolutely loved and used frequently last year always with enthusiastic responses.

Oliver Elephant / It’s Christmas!

Oliver Elephant
Lou Peacock and Helen Stephens
Nosy Crow
Armed with a list of people to buy for, Noah, his mum and little sister, Evie-May sally forth to the large Christmas shop; Noah with his beloved Oliver Elephant tucked under his arm.
Once inside, Mummy shops while Noah and Oliver play happily until disaster strikes when Oliver dances into a large jug full of baubles …

That disaster pales into insignificance though when it’s followed soon after by another one.
Having finished their shopping mum takes them all to a café and as they are leaving Noah notices that Oliver is no longer with them.
Back to the big shop they dash but a search reveals no sign of his precious toy.
Does Evie-May perhaps know anything about his disappearance?
Fear not: all ends happily although they do have to dash back inside yet again to make one final purchase …
Beautifully told in Lou Peacock’s faultless rhyme and accompanied by Helen Stephens’ gently nostalgic, superbly expressive illustrations – her characterisation is great– this is just right for sharing after a hectic bout of Christmas shopping with your little ones.

 

It’s Christmas!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
The big day is almost here and super-exuberant little rhino Archie is full of the Christmas spirit.
He improves Dad’s Christmas biscuits, and, not content with Mum’s new decorations, redecorates the Christmas tree; but that’s not all; his ideas keep on coming. Having seen Granny and Grandpa’s Christmas jumpers, he decides his own festive jumper needs some sprucing up.
This results in a resounding …

after which mum gives him a very important role as ‘snow watcher’. Bored by the distinct lack of snowflakes though, Archie comes up with his own way of making it snow which precipitates further disasters.
Will the family ever get themselves sorted out in time for Christmas morning?
As always, young Archie knows just how to steal the show and amuse his audience be they young listeners or adult readers aloud.

Seasonally Flavoured Fiction

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Jingle Bells!
Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton
Nosy Crow

If you’ve yet to meet comedic twosome, the wonderful baker dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam I urge you to do so with this book of three stories. Shifty’s the more industrious, of the pair; Sam means well but tends to lack his pal’s organisational skills.
In the first story, the dogs have been commissioned to create Santa’s Christmas cake and deliver it to him the same afternoon. No easy task especially with next-door neighbour Red Rocket determined to create mischief at every opportunity.

The other two tales, Sea-Monster Ahoy! and The Lucky Cat aren’t Christmassy but they are equally good fun and all are perfect for those just taking off as independent readers, who will particularly relish Steve Lenton’s lively scenes of the canine mystery solvers at work.

Harper and the Fire Star
Cerrie Burnell illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
Scholastic

Harper, the girl endowed with a rare musical gift, who resides in the City of Clouds and is able to play any instrument she picks up without learning a single note, returns in her 4th adventure and once again it’s full of music, magic, friendship and gentle humour.
In this story, the Circus of Dreams (Harper’s birthplace) is back in town and as well as seeing her parents, Harper has something important she wants to do and that is to help the Wild Conductor win back his place in the magical show. Why he wants to do so is a mystery to Harper and her friends, nevertheless they put on an amazing show but things don’t quite go according to plan.
Then they learn exactly why getting back into the circus is so important to the Wild Conductor: it’s on account of his love for a girl named Fire Star, so called because ‘whenever she heard music she began to shine like a star.’
Adding to the fun of the tale are Laura Ellen Andersen’s sparkly illustrations.
Always ready to help others, Harper is a delight.

The Storm Dog
Holly Webb
Stripes Publishing

Young Tilly and her mum are going to stay with her Grandma and Great-Gran over Christmas but when work delays her mum, Tilly travels ahead alone on the train.
Great-Gran (almost ninety) has sent Tilly a parcel to open on the train and inside she discovers a Christmas tree decoration and a photo.
Soon, lulled by the motion of the train, Tilly starts to doze and finds herself back in the time when it was her Great-Gran taking the journey as an evacuee more than seventy years back. (Tilly is learning about World War Two for a school project.) She then re-lives some of Great-Gran’s evacuation experiences along with her two younger brothers who also stayed at Mr Thomas’ farm on the Welsh borders, attended the village school, tended the farm animals, had their first experience of snow and sledging, and prepared for the Christmas season..
Tilly forms a special friendship with Tarran, Mr Thomas’ sheepdog and it’s he that plays an important role on more than one occasion.
Gently told, the twisting, turning adventure draws you in right away and keeps you entranced right through to the end. It’s great for giving young readers an insight into life in WW2, especially those who, like Tilly, are learning about the period at school. Line drawings by Artful Doodlers, several per chapter, are scattered throughout the story, further adding to the reader’s enjoyment.

Curse of the Werewolf Boy
Chris Priestley
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This had me gripped from the start. Essentially it’s a boarding school parody of the Gothic kind and its stars, or rather heroes – neither seems to quite fit the bill – Arthur Mildew and Algernon Spongely-Partwork aka Mildew and Sponge are pupils at Maudlin Towers School, by all accounts a pretty awful establishment for the ‘Not Particularly Bright Sons of the Not Especially Wealthy’.
Returning after a half-term holiday, the pupils are informed that a terrible crime has occurred: the School Spoon (once owned by the school’s founder) has been stolen and the headmaster threatens terrible consequences for the culprit(s).
Who better for a spot of detectivating than Mildew and Sponge who are about to learn that crime solving isn’t as easy as they might have thought. Particularly when there’s a ghost in the attic, not to mention a Viking wandering around, a history teacher, one Mr Luckless who has a ‘temporo-trans-navigational-vehicular-engine’ (a time machine to you and me); even a werewolf boy (but you’d expect that from the title), and more.
It’s not only the lead crime solvers who are splendid; every single character is wonderful be they pupil or teacher – you can meet the whole cast at once via the role of honour board at the start of the story. With staff names such as Mr Particle actually newly deceased when the story opens; you can guess what subject he taught, Mr Stupendo and the Latin speaking Miss Livia; and Enderpenny and Furthermore numbering among the pupils.
Then there’s the narrative itself which is peppered with such deliciousness as:
I know what a ha-ha is, you nose hair,” said Kenningworth … ; and
… Mildew’s upper lip began to lose some of its structural integrity…”;
a brilliantly controlled plot that twists and turns while keeping readers totally engrossed throughout its mock scary entirety; and if that’s not enough, the book is chortle-makingly illustrated by none other than Chris Priestly himself.
Why am I including this story in a Christmas review, you might be wondering: that’s for me to know and for you to discover when you get hold of a copy of this cracker of a book.

Festive Fun for the Very Young

Listen to the Christmas Songs
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow

Half a dozen favourite seasonal songs are illustrated – one per spread – and each one can be brought to life by pressing the sound button on the respective spread.
(Adults can turn off the switch at the end of the book when they’ve had enough of the jollity.)
Interactive, sing along fun for the very young illustrated with bright animal scenes of festive fun and frolics.

Snow Dog
Puffin Books

To share with the very youngest, a dog-shaped board book with short rhyming text tells how the playful Snowdog runs and jumps, chases his ball and generally enjoys the company of his friends be they of the snowman or human kind.
Five snowy scenes show all the fun of the chilly outdoors.

Make & Play Nativity
Joey Chou
Nosy Crow

Here’s a nice strong, easy-to-assemble Nativity scene for small fingers.
It comprises twenty characters, some human, others animal that are easy to slot together, and in so doing, youngsters can hone their manipulative skills as a lovely seasonal scene is constructed.
Joey Chou’s artwork has a delightful simplicity that may well inspire users to make some of their own figures to add to the completed scene.
I’d suggest sharing the Nativity story included in the latter part of the book before starting on the construction. Once this is complete, then there are other activities including making an adventure calendar, songs to sing and more.
A festive delight that can (the pieces are easy to take apart after Christmas) be used over and over, either in a nursery setting or a family.

All I Want for Christmas
Rachel Bright
Orchard Books

In this short rhyming tale we join penguins – one Big, one Little- as they count down the days to Christmas.
There is plenty to keep them busy: baking, wrapping presents, making cards and decorations and seemingly, the entire penguin population is eagerly anticipating what will be under the Christmas tree.

There’s one penguin however who has no need to join the queue to post a letter to Santa, for the one thing Big really wants above all else is right there all the time: it’s a 4-lettered word beginning with l: can you guess what that might be?

Stomp! Stomp! / Count on Goz / Night and Day

Stomp! Stomp!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
In this new addition to the ‘Can you say it too?’ board book series, a handful of dinosaurs have hidden, or rather attempted to hide themselves, in Sebastien Braun’s brightly illustrated spreads.
Very young children will get lots of pleasure manipulating the flaps (plants, a cloud and a rock) to discover what’s hiding beneath them, as well as getting their tongues around the names and noises.

Children beginning to read often find words such as ‘triceratops’, ‘diplodocus’, ‘stegosaurus’, ‘pterodactyl’ and ‘tyrannosaurus’ easy to recognise especially in a meaningful context, so why shouldn’t infants just starting to talk encounter them early on too, perhaps even with that older sibling reading the book with its short, predictable text, with them.

Count on Goz
Steve Weatherill
Steve Weatherill Books
Goz the baby goose has just taken his early morning swim but now he’s managed to lose the other geese. In his search he encounters in turn a cow and her calf, a sheep and 2 lambs, a mother cat and her 3 kittens and a dog with 4 lively puppies. To each he says, “Hello. Are the geese here?” but is greeted with “No, only me and my …” followed by a “Moo!”, “Baa, baa!” and so on …

until finally beside the big pond we spy …
Guess what is tucked in the nest beneath that large wing.
In addition to the baby animals revealed by opening the flap on each spread, the final page has 6 swallows, 7 sheep, 8 eggs, 9 newts and 10 tadpoles for those who want to continue their counting.
First published over 25 years ago, Goz has certainly stood the test of time. In addition to being a first counting book, this re-issue is, with its brief, predictable text, just right for beginning readers and far better than the rubbishy reading schemes offered to children starting to read in schools nowadays.
Equally it’s perfect to share with a small group of listeners in a nursery setting or an adult or older child to read to a younger sibling.

Night and Day
Julie Safirstein
Princeton Architectural Press
In ‘A Big Book of Opposites’, as the subtitle says, Safirstein uses simple shapes, clever design and bold colours together with flaps of various sizes, pop-ups, fold-outs and other interactive devices to help demonstrate opposing relationships such as tiny/ huge (and sizes in between); left/right – which has a secondary numerical element …

high/low; night/day – in this instance a large tree unfolds to illustrate both.
Circular sliders can be manipulated to demonstrate alone/together and next to/far (with ‘in the middle’ also included for good measure).
The whole thing is a handsome and inventive production …

and even the finale is ingenious; a gatefold is lifted to ‘open’ a bright red flower after which the book is ‘closed’ as printed on the back cover.
Once in their clutches, young users will I suspect spend a considerable amount of time with the book ‘open’, being reluctant to ‘close’ it, thoroughly enjoy playing with the various moveable parts so it’s as well the whole thing is sturdily constructed. It might even help them develop a few concepts while so doing.

A Briefing of Board Books

Time to Go With Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Ted, the wonderfully imaginative toddler is back and he’s ready to go.
Whether it be to the park, the shops, the pool or the playground swings …

he’s always sure to have the appropriate gear with him.
And being such a friendly little boy, he’s bound to make friends wherever he goes; so come teatime he’s got plenty of guests to share with.
Lift-the-flap pages hide a host of animals as well as opportunities for some noisy roaring, shivering, sploshing and making monkey sounds.

Listen to the Dance Music
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
Just in time for ‘Strictly’ here’s an opportunity to brush up on your dance moves with the animal movers and shakers. You can waltz with the wolves, tango with the horses, practise some Charleston swivels with the bears, salsa with the flamingos, rock n’ roll along with the cats and hip-hop with the frogs. And, to get you and your little ones going, there’s a sound button at the back of the book, so as well as enjoying the dancers visually, you can listen to the various types of music. What are you waiting for: let’s dance.

I Thought I Saw a Lion!
Lydia Nichols
Templar Publishing
Using the sliders on every spread, toddlers can develop their manipulative skills while enjoying playing hide-and-seek with a mischievous lion that invades a variety of venues. Is he somewhere in the restaurant? Or perhaps he’s visiting the fancy dress shop or the bookshop maybe.

Surely he can’t be getting his mane trimmed at the hairdresser’s, so where is he?
Built-in repetition and bold, stylish illustrations enhance the game.

Colours/ Opposites
Britta Teckentrup
Templar Publishing
Two popular topics feature in stylish look and find presentations by Britta Teckentrup.
In addition to the colour element of the first, there are opportunities for counting and developing talk on each spread.

Opposites here entails essentially, finding the odd one out, be that outside, above, fast, short, heavy, white, closed or small. Some concepts such as tall/short or heavy/ light are relative and thus not so clear-cut, but the rhyming text ensures that answering the questions asked is not an issue. Here: for instance,

‘Some animals plod / with a slow heavy pace, / but who is so fast she’s / winning the race?’

Opposites/ Colours
Nosy Crow and The British Museum
The two new Early Learning at the Museum titles contain around thirty fascinating objects from the museum collections per book.
Apart from the basic concepts presented in the two books, each fascinating image offers opportunities for developing open-ended conversations with young children.
You can look into recent history and go back over 2000 years with intriguing artefacts from a variety of cultures in Opposites. Or in Colours go back even further to 2600BC or be bang up to date with a Grayson Perry vase from 2011.
These chunky books will be of interest to children long after they’ve acquired the basic concepts related to opposites and colours.
Adults can scan the QR code in each book to find out more about the featured objects and there is a full key at the back.

The Marine Team / The Forest Folk / The Sky Guys
Madeleine Rogers
Button Books
Here are three new additions to the Mibo board books series featuring five animals, apiece, two spreads being given to each one.
Once again in each book, superb graphics are accompanied by fact-filled rhymes and there is a final fact page that tells you a little bit about each animal presented, their habitats and what we can do to help protect them.
The Marine Team comprises the green turtle, the great white shark, which is actually only white on its lower part, the seal, the blue whale and seahorses.
Did you know that it’s the male that carries the eggs from which the babies are born?
In The Forest Folk we meet temperate forest dwellers, brown bears, grey wolves, red squirrels, otters and deer, both male and female.
The Sky Guys features five bird species – the majestic albatross, the elegant flamingo, the wise owl, the guzzling pelican and the tiny hummingbird.
The rhyming texts will help young children absorb the information as an adult reads it aloud; and each book offers plenty of talking points.

This Zoo is Not for You

This Zoo is Not for You
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

A misunderstanding is at the heart of Ross Collins’ latest picture book.
It stars a bus-driving platypus who arrives at the zoo on a day when interviews for new admissions are in progress.
He’s duly made to put up with a series of scrutinies by some very self-important residents.
First off is panda, Chi Chi an enormous creature propped up by a large heap of self-promotional items, who disdainfully utters, ‘To get me here / was quite a coup. But you don’t even / eat bamboo. I think this zoo / is not for you.

All the other animals are in agreement. The flamingos liken him to a ‘worn-out shoe’; the monkeys bombard him with poo;

his lack of colour displeases the chameleons and elephant instantly fails him on account of his diminutive stature.
Off goes platypus; the interviewers confer and eventually a monkey actually bothers to open and read platypus’s dropped communication.

Is it too late to make amends?
This playful tale, told in jaunty rhyming couplets accompanied by splendidly eloquent illustrations is a delight to read aloud and destined to become a storytime favourite. With its inherent themes of difference, understanding and acceptance, there is so much food for thought and discussion.

Stardust / In My Room

Stardust
Jeanne Willis and Briony May-Smith
Nosy Crow

For the little girl narrator of the story, it’s deeply upsetting being the sister of someone who always seems to be the star of the show where family members are concerned, other than Grandad, that is.
Then one night after losing the Fancy Dress Competition to her big sister,

Grandad finds our narrator outside gazing up at the starlit sky. Her wish to be a star prompts him to tell her a story: the story of how the universe came into being.

A story that explains the connectedness of everything and everyone: “Everything and everyone is made of stardust,” he tells her. “… Your sister isn’t the only star in the universe… you all shine in different ways.
And, inspired by his words, shine she does – in the most amazing way.

Such wise words; words that the little girl never forgets but equally, words that every child needs telling, sometimes over and over.
Briony May-Smith’s stunningly beautiful illustrations really do celebrate connectedness, diversity and individuality; they’re every bit as empowering as Jeanne Willis’ text.
Strongly recommended for families and early years settings to share and discuss.

In My Room
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

The fifth of the ‘Growing Hearts’ series of novelty books starring a little girl protagonist is essentially a celebration of creativity and imaginative play.
The thick pages are cut so that when the book is turned through 90 degrees, they form together a variegated pencil crayon with which the girl conjures up a series of playful scenarios.
All I need is paper, crayons, chalk … and my imagination!” she tells readers.
First she’s an explorer, then a dancing princess; she becomes a speed racer, a teacher, a writer,

a sailor, a swimmer, a bride, a vet and finally, a funky rock star; all without leaving her room other than in her head

and courtesy of her art materials. Not a sign of any technology anywhere – hurrah!
Yes, there are already plenty of picture books that celebrate the power of the imagination; what makes this one different is the format.
Long live creativity!

I’ve signed the charter  

What’s Next Door?

What’s Next Door?
Nicola O’Byrne
Nosy Crow

Carter the crocodile from Open Very Carefully appears to have got lost and landed up between the covers of a book, -this book – and he needs our help to get home. He’s not above issuing threats either, judging by the sign he’s clutching.

Much better to do as he (and the narrator) request; we certainly don’t want him getting cantankerous: those barbed teeth of his look pretty scary.
This will entail exercising drawing and thinking skills, and a bit of pushing and shoving, together with some deft manipulation of the book itself, as Carter requires -heaving, blow drying, having his tummy rubbed to warm him up and fanning to cool him off, before he finally arrives back home, safe and sound.
Nicola O’Byrne talks directly to the reader in her engaging, chatty style narrative but despite her best efforts and those of readers, the croc. ends up in some totally inappropriate places en route – a salty sea,

a chilly snowy landscape and a scorching desert .
Carter’s progress through the various doors and the die-cut pages of the book itself, are documented in the author’s superbly expressive scenes that show Carter’s reactions to all our efforts,

along with some animal friends he acquires during the course of his adventure.

Board Book Shelf

Hidden Animals
Find the Wolf

Agnese Baruzzi
Templar Publishing
Here are two wonderfully playful board books from Italian artist, Agnese Baruzzi.
In the former, the peep-through die-cut pages beguile readers with a series of different coloured shapes which, when the page is turned become transformed into in turn, a bird, a fox, a bug, a cat,

a dog, a jellyfish and a lion.
Part of the fun, once children have worked out what is happening, is to guess the animal from the coloured background on the left-hand side before the page is turned. I was wrong on a couple of occasions.
Find the Wolf takes readers on a hunt for a ”WANTED’ wolf . As we walk through the woods we see for instance, two pointy ears or a set of grey paws. Or are they?
Here Baruzzi uses two die-cut circles on each right hand page and by asking such questions as ‘Are those his eyes?’

leads us to believe’ that behind them the missing lupine lurks. But on turning over we see something completely different.

The elusive creature (or traces of same) is actually lurking somewhere on every recto which further adds to the delicious hide and seek element.

Up and Down
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This lovely board book, published in partnership with the National Trust is Rosalind Beardshaw’s latest addition to her A Walk in the Countryside series.
Winter has well and truly arrived; so the two small friends don warm clothes and boots before setting off into the great snowy outdoors.
Then it’s Up hill and Down on their sledges, followed by on foot encounters with a variety of creatures both feathered and furry

as they spend a wonderful day together savouring the delights of their rural romp.
There’s plenty to enjoy and discuss with toddlers in addition to the inbuilt ‘opposites’ the minimal text offers.

Bizzy Bear Ambulance Rescue
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will delight in making the ‘nee-naw’ ambulance sounds and manipulating the moving parts in the new Bizzy Bear board book.
Bizzy Bear assumes the role of paramedic in his latest episode and he’s responding to an emergency call out. A little cat has had a cycling accident and Bizzy rushes to the scene where he helps lift the patient into the ambulance

which then rushes the injured kitty to hospital where he’s treated for what looks like a broken leg. Short and sweet!

It’s Time for Bed

A Bear Hug at Bedtime
Jana Novotny Hunter and Kay Widdowson
Child’s Play
Imaginative play rules in this enchanting pre-bedtime romp: snuggle up and prepare for a bedtime hug or two.
A small child meets a variety of animals, large and small as bedtime approaches or does she? Look again and we see that in fact something entirely different is happening as she imagines various members of her family as animals: Gran morphs into a stripy tiger, Mum becomes a monkey,

her little brothers a lizard and a lobster. And Dad? He’s a huge hairy bear just waiting to leap out and engulf his daughter with a wonderfully warm, goodnight hug. Gorgeous!
Beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated and SO full of heart, it’s perfect for bedtime sharing.

Babies Can Sleep Anywhere
Lisa Wheeler and Carolina Búzio
Abrams Appleseed
There’s a distinct retro look and pleasing pattern to this languorous rhyming look at sleeping places. ‘Bats take a nap in a cave upside down. / Hay is a bed for a mare. // Wolves cuddle up in a den ‘neath the ground./ But babies can sleep anywhere.’
This three animals followed by one human infant pattern is used throughout the book until the final spread. This shows an array of sleeping human babes all looking totally blissful.

It’s good to see a mix of well-known and less familiar animals included, as well as the variety of human families on the final pages. Carolina Búzio’s bold colour palette is gorgeous.

I See the Moon
illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
For this delightful bedtime sharing book, Rosalind Beardshaw has illustrated sixteen popular rhymes, lullabies and poems (mostly anonymous but with poems by J.M.Westrup, Thomas Hood and Robert Louis Stevenson).
Populating her moonlit world with adorable children, foxes, squirrels, mice and other small creatures set in scenes generously embellished with silver and gold,

Beardshaw makes each spread sparkles with colour, light and nocturnal enchantment.

Preschool Menagerie

Animosaics: Can You Find Me?
Surya Sajnani
Words & Pictures
This lovely, large format search-and-find counting book will keep youngsters engaged for ages while they look for the animals illustrated on the right-hand pages that are also hidden within the full-page mosaic style habitat opposite; habitats such as the garden, the pond, on the farm, in the jungle or in the ocean.

In addition this is a counting book wherein you are invited to spot other creatures, for example, 1 butterfly in the garden, 2 tadpoles in the pond, 3 hens on the farm and so on, culminating in 10 fireflies in the nocturnal sky mosaic.
What makes this large format book stand out is Surya Sajnani’s bold, graphic art style, which is immediately striking, and also her cubist-constructed creatures set within the habitat appropriate coloured tesserae.

How Do You Sleep?
Olivia Cosneau and Bernard Duisit
What Are You Wearing Today?
Janik Coat and Bernard Duisit
Thames & Hudson
Here are two new additions to the playful, interactive Flip-Flap-Pop-Up series of board books with Duisit acting as paper engineer for both titles.
In the first readers can by manipulating the tabs, discover the sleeping places/positions of seven different animal species from various parts of the world.

In the second book children will enjoy changing the animals’ dress depending on their location, the weather conditions; or on occasion, the mood of the featured animal. This one has both tabs and flaps to help develop manipulative skills.
I’m sure Rita Rhino’s skirt being lifted by the wind …

will be a favourite with youngsters.

Dress Up Jojo
Xavier Deneux
Twirl
Jojo rabbit is back and he’s in playful mood. He dresses up in eight different ways: as a snowman, a spotty leopard, a sword-wielding knight, a cowboy, an alien, an astronaut bound for the moon, a deep sea diver and finally a pilot.
Toddlers can develop their fine motor skills by covering the little creature with snow, helping him balance on a tree branch, swish his sword, open the gates for him to find his horse, roll his eyes like an alien,

spin around in space, dive down deep in the ocean and resurface, and fly away on an adventure; all by placing a finger on the red dots and using their fingers to activate Jojo in his let’s pretend activities.

Zoo
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
In the second ‘Tiny Little Story’ Baby Boo and Daddy are off to the zoo on the bus. Once there, they meet giraffe, elephant, lion,

monkey, snake and the penguins and then it’s time to leave.
Short and sweet.
With attractive, brightly coloured, strikingly patterned illustrations and a brief text with some animal sounds to enjoy, soft, squashy cloth pages, and a velcro strap for attaching it to a buggy, it’s a perfect introduction to books for the very youngest; and, it’s washable.

It’s Time For School

               Here’s a handful of picture books, each with a school setting, albeit a somewhat unlikely one in the first three.

First Day at Skeleton School
Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Following on from First Day at Bug School, Sam Lloyd moves deep into the dark forest for her new school-based offering. (Some of my listeners recognised the illustrative style having spotted it on my table and eagerly pounced on the book demanding an immediate reading.)
Skeleton School doesn’t restrict its intake to skeletons though; all manner of creepy pupils are to be found here in this night-time educational establishment run by one, Mr Bones who stands ready and waiting to welcome newcomers (and readers).
I’m happy to see that there’s a school library, albeit a haunted one; but at least one of the pupils needs to learn some appropriate behaviour – maybe she just hasn’t learned to read yet.
The curriculum includes a jingle jangle dance class with the skeletons, how to float through walls, ghost style and spell making, which has some surprising outcomes, not least for Mr Bones.

Sam Lloyd gives full rein to her imagination and in addition to the zany storyline delivered in her rhyming text, provides a visual extravaganza for young listeners to explore and chuckle over.
The endpapers cutaway spread of the school interior will definitely illicit lots of giggles not least over the toilet humour.


More crazy happenings in:

School for Little Monsters
Michelle Robinson and Sarah Horne
Scholastic
Side by side stand two schools, one for monsters, the other for ‘nice boys and girls’. The question is which one is which? And if it’s your first day, how do you know you’re in the right school, especially when some little monsters have been up to a spot of mischief making?
No matter which door you enter, there are some rules to abide by – fourteen in all;

and the whole day is assuredly, a steep learning curve for both human and monster newcomers; and has more than a sprinkling of the kind of gently subversive humour (bums, poo, trumps and bottoms) that young children relish.
Riotous scenes from Sarah Horne showing the pupils’ interpretations of Michelle Robinson’s rhyming rules in this read aloud romp.

Old friends return in:

Cat Learns to Listen at Moonlight School
Simon Puttock and Ali Pye
Nosy Crow
Cat, Bat, Owl and Mouse are not newcomers to Miss Moon’s Moonlight School; they already know about the importance of sharing; but listening? Certainly Cat still has a lot to learn where this vital skill is concerned.
On this particular night Miss Moon is taking her class on a nature walk to look for ‘interesting things’. She issues instructions for the pupils to walk in twos and to stay together. “Nobody must wander off,” she warns.
Before long, it becomes apparent that Cat has done just that. She’s spied a firefly and follows it until it settles far from the others, on a flower.

Suddenly though her delight gives way to panic: where are her classmates and teacher?
All ends happily with Cat’s friends using their observation skills until they’ve tracked her down; and the importance of listening having been impressed upon Cat once again, they return to school with their findings.
Ali Pye’s digital illustrations are full of shadows brightened by the moon and stars and Miss Moon’s lantern, illuminating for listeners and readers, the delightful details of the natural world on every spread.
Puttock and Pye seem to have a winning formula here: my young listeners immediately recognised the characters and responded enthusiastically to the sweet story.

Now back to reality:

Going to School
Rose Blake
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The pupil here is a girl, Rose, who shares with readers a very busy day spent with friends in their primary school class. There’s certainly a lot to pack in for our narrator, her classmates and their teacher, Miss Balmer: geography, art, English, maths, PE, science, computing and drama.
Fortunately though, it appears to be an active curriculum …

and Miss Balmer reads a story to the children in the “Book Nook’. Hurray!
Seemingly all of the children have firm ideas about their future paths and what they want to become. This is reflected in their choice of activities at work and play: visual clues as to what these are occur throughout the book.
Rose Blakes’s digitally worked spreads are full of visual narratives offering much to interest and discuss, and though this certainly isn’t a first ever day at school book, she certainly makes school look an exciting place to be.

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Lois Looks for Bob: At Home / At the Park & Better Together

Lois Looks for Bob at Home
Lois Looks for Bob at the Park

Gerry Turley
Nosy Crow
In an exciting new series, two amusing, sturdily build board books involve toddlers in a game of hide and seek to find a missing bird.
Lois is a black cat; Bob her unlikely, feathered friend.
In the first book, Bob has disappeared somewhere indoors but has left a trail of yellow feathers to help Lois in her search. The canny feline hunts high and low and in the process introduces readers to a host of other resident animals with unlikely names, before locating her friend (sans a few feathers).
I’m not sure what Bob was doing in the park but it’s the location for Lois’ second search.
There are many possible hiding places as well as a hilariously named set of park residents to discover (Derek and Susan ducks, Roger the squirrel, Cynthia snail …

and Frank the peacock) before her feathered pal is finally found.
The simple question and answer text involves young listeners from the outset and will keep them amused throughout Lois’ investigations during which they’ll be encountering a range of positional prepositions.

Better Together
Barbara Joosse, Anneke Lisberg and Jared Andrew Schorr
Abrams Appleseed
Die-cut gatefold pages turn single animals – a nervous zebra, a hungry bat,



a curious crow, a frisky meerkat, a brave prairie dog and a little rat into members of their respective communities as each is comforted, fed, or otherwise nurtured by its fellows.
The penultimate spread has an infant with its human family who have all gatherered together to celebrate its first birthday.

Observant readers will notice that along with the humans, each animal has also found its way into the birthday party.
There’s a final ‘Fun Things to Know’ spread that provides some brief facts about some ways the featured animals help each other.
Satisfying rhyming or alliterative phrases such as ‘flicky ticky’, ‘rumbly tumbly’ and ‘doodle daddle’ enliven the brief text and Schorr’s densely coloured collage illustrations offer attractive animal environments.

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Stick! / That is Actually MY Blanket, Baby!

Stick!
Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow
The joys of finding and playing with a stick are explored in an unassuming tale of a small boy and his dog as they take a walk together. There are so many pleasures such a simple, natural object can yield including a game of throwing, retrieving, use as a tapping instrument, an aid to balancing, a corn swisher, a drawing implement …

a mud stirrer, or a floater. Such a versatile find.

All in all a delightful celebration of playing in the great outdoors told through a brief, straightforward text and rendered in vibrant scenes that have a slightly retro feel.
Quite simply, a breath of fresh air and a reminder of the importance of free play with natural objects.
With its minimal text closely matched to the illustrations, it’s great for those just starting to read as well as for sharing with the very young.

That is Actually MY Blanket, Baby!
Angie Morgan and Kate Alizadeh
Little Tiger Press
Many young children form an attachment to a blanket or other soft toy from which they become virtually inseparable; so it is with Bella the small female protagonist in this story. Her ‘Blanket’ has been everywhere Bella has and absorbed a good few spills, smells and a whole lot of dirt in the course of their adventures together.
Then along comes a new baby brother, an adorable creature but what a crier. Bella tries all kinds of diversion tactics but suddenly something catches New Baby’s attention. New Baby has a lovely new blanket of his own, a cosy stripy one that should do the trick as a pacifier but no: he prefers Bella’s muddy, painty, stinky one and doesn’t want to let go.
Bella doesn’t act in haste though, snatching her blanket back as many youngsters probably would; rather she encourages her tiny brother to use his own pristine blanket in all kinds of messy activities in the hope it might in time become as much loved as her own.

Until then, who knows: perhaps her patience, loving words and sharing compromise will do the trick?

Endearing characters steal the show in this unusual take on a new sibling.

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Troll Stroll

Troll Stroll
Elli Woollard and David Barrow
Nosy Crow
Having grown tired of an unrelenting diet of billy goat, the large lumbering troll in this tasty tale goes lumbering off in search of something different to tickle his palate. Off he heads through the town, stopping at the bridge – after all that’s where trolls hang out, isn’t it? Seems as though he’s about to strike lucky for what should come pedalling into view but a lad out for a spin. “Mmm” says the Troll. “There is nothing I like quite as much as a nice juicy boy on his bike.
The lad however, despite his relatively diminutive stature, shows a decided lack of fear.

Clearly he is familiar with the Three Billy Goats Gruff story for he responds thus: “Please don’t eat me just yet! There is something much better behind me, I bet!
Sure enough almost instantly, along comes an infinitely more tempting possibility.

And so it goes on, with first a school bus and then a digger full of mucky young passengers coming along to tempt the troll with even better, more substantial sounding treats.
Has the Troll finally met his match with that digger, or are those ‘scrumptious young morsels” aboard about to become his next tasty repast?

This is a lip-smacking offering from the toothsome new twosome, Woollard and Barrow. Elli Woollard’s rhyming text simply slips off the tongue – a veritable treat if ever; and David Barrow’s soft-focus, splodgy illustrations are deliciously diverting.

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Mummy! / First Words & 123

Mummy!
Lerryn Korda
Nosy Crow
What a cool idea: a lift-the-flap board book with an ancient Egyptian setting published in association with The British Museum.
A small girl has been separated from her mummy and is searching for her: “Where’s my mummy?” she asks repeatedly as she looks in various likely locations: the market, the lotus pool,

by the enormous sphinx, among the foliage by the river and in the temple.
Finally, she reaches her own home and …

With nine visual references to artefacts belonging to the British Museum, (each with an associated hieroglyph to discover), this is such a fun way to introduce very young children to history. (The final spread is devoted to photographs of these and there’s a QR code to scan for more information about the objects shown.)
Equally, with such engaging illustrations and simple repeat pattern narrative it’s also great as a beginning to read picture book.

Some interesting reissued board books are:

Alison Jay’s 123
Alison Jay’s First Words

Templar Publishing
In 123, Alison Jay uses a fairytale landscape for counting as a girl dreams that she travels upon a golden goose to different fairytale scenes.  Each new spread features a number from 1 to 10, and then counts back down to 1 again.  Observant readers will notice that on every spread, the artist includes other sets of the number featured.  She also leaves a visual clue that suggests the next spread and perhaps beyond.

First Words begins with a grandfather clock face surrounded by decorative images that point to the four seasons and to what is to follow on subsequent pages. There are visual allusions to nursery rhymes in addition to the opening Hickory Dickory Dock (yes there’s a mouse atop the clock); we see Jack and Jill climbing up the ‘hill’; while for instance, ‘hat’ and ‘fish’ allude to ‘12345 once I caught a fish alive’

The book spans a whole day, but moves through the seasons too. Featuring seemingly random objects, Jay also uses foreshadowing in this book – an added talking point for children and adults; and each page having just a single word leaves readers free to make up their own stories.
In fact I see both these not so much as concept books but as starting points for promoting talk and visual literacy.

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The Prince and the Pee

The Prince and the Pee
Greg Gormley and Chris Mould
Nosy Crow

Deeds of derring-do really cannot be done if you’re crossing your legs.
When you’ve got to go, you’ve just gotta go – right? Not so in this hilarious tale of holding on against the odds.
Prince Freddie is summoned from his holiday by his trusty steed, Sir Rushington. Crumbly Castle is under attack from a dragon and there’s no time to lose.
Off they go and before long, Freddie gets that tingly “I need to pee” feeling which is made decidedly worse by the rhythmic ‘Up and down’ motion of the horse’s gait. Distractions fail to distract from the constant urge and suddenly, down comes the rain

and inevitably its plinkety plink serves to exacerbate the need.
Several stops later, all abortive on account of an ogre, then a princess in a tower and finally a long queue at the loo …

they reach their destination with the prince now absolutely desperate.
There before him stands a very large, very fearsome dragon; but there’s no stopping the young prince who charges forward completely surprising the dragon, over the drawbridge, through the castle gates to find the privy.

His long-delayed micturition not only brings relief to the prince, but saves the day by extinguishing an unexpected conflagration.
Gormley’s deliciously suspenseful telling is guaranteed to have audiences in fits of laughter and Chris Mould’s illustrations are utterly brilliant. He captures to perfection the diminutive prince’s journey and his ever-increasing discomfiture.
There’s the sight and sound of water, the up and down motion in the saddle while riding Sir Rushington and the false hopes of some relief every time he thinks he’s found a likely spot to go; all ratchet up the pressure on the poor prince’s bladder.
Priceless!

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How To Look After Your Dinosaur / Caring For Your Lion

How To Look After Your Dinosaur
Jason Cockroft
Nosy Crow
The outsized creature herein simply bursts into the life of a small boy when the postman makes a special delivery one day.
Just in case the same thing happens to you, it’s advisable to be in the know. Best then to take it from one who’s learnt from experience: get it right and you’ve got a friend for life.
The day needs to get off to a good start so a nutritional breakfast will give your new pet the energy required for the day: through trial and error you’ll find out what appeals.
Next on the agenda should be a spot of outdoor exercise. The park is a suitable place to head for and inevitably, the animal will need to take a dump at some time so it’s best to take a large container.

Dressing for the occasion, the rules of friendship, regular meals and knowing when to head for home are other important considerations.
Once back indoors, establishing a proper bedtime routine from the outset will make life a lot easier and after a good scrub you can settle down with your pet for a soothing bedtime story …

Essentially this is a giant leg-pull of a book that works on the witty interplay between words and pictures.

More on unusual pet care in:

Caring For Your Lion
Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings
Sterling
It’s the big day; the day a boy’s kitten will finally arrive. Apparently however, the company ran out of kittens and so have sent a lion instead. ‘Luckily, a lion is practically the same thing!’ says the label on the crate and ‘caring for your lion is easy.’ All one has to do is to follow the step-by-step instructions set out in the handy guide provided. Step 1 is to open the crate to reveal the new pet and Step 2, to locate the enclosed feather (to be kept for emergencies) – such as the one referred to in Steps 4 and 5.

Back to Step 3 though lest we get ahead of ourselves; this urges the owner to avoid looking like a zebra, a gazelle or a bunny for obvious reasons. This is where the feather might come in handy; ditto if the ravenous creature accidentally consumes the deliveryman, along with the assorted pizzas you’ve ordered.
Potty Training (with the help of the enclosed deluxe lion potty pack), setting up an appropriate play space, sleeping arrangements, rewards for good behaviour, the bath time ritual …

and the bedtime routine are all covered. And naturally after all this the final ‘purrrrr-fect pet’ step will speak for itself.
Completely antithetical to Tammi Sauer’s deadpan ‘how to’ style’ text are Troy Cummings’ laugh out loud artistic interpretations of the instructions: an altogether uproarious combination.

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