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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery
Jake Williams
Pavilion Books

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

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

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

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

as well as maps showing the Beagle’s progress.

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

Speedy Monkey / An Owl Called Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For those ready for a longer read is

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

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

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

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

Flaps, Frights and Fun for Little Ones

Where’s Mrs Bear?
Where’s Mrs Witch?

Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

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

 

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

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

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

Farmblock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

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

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

Yum Yummy Yuck
Cree Lane and Amanda Jane Jones
Prestel

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

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

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

Heidi

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

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

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

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

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

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

so much so that she starts sleepwalking.

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

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

Bedtime for Albie / What Will You Dream of Tonight?

Bedtime for Albie
Sophie Ambrose
Walker Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Lives

Wild Lives
Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh
Nosy Crow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love You Always / Mama’s Work Shoes

Love You Always
Frances Stickley and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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