The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid
Geraldine McCaughrean and Laura Barrett
Orchard Books

Storyteller extraordinaire Geraldine McCaughrean retells the Hans Christian Andersen classic tale as only she can, making it a real joy to read aloud.

Delphine the youngest of six mermaid sisters hears from her siblings of the wonders of the world above the sea’s surface and can hardly wait for her special coming of age birthday when she too will be allowed to venture up.

When the great day arrives it’s a joyful Delphine who swims to the surface and begins to sing in her wonderful voice.
As she does so another celebration is taking place aboard a great ship anchored close by. The sight of the prince’s face sends her heart spinning but suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, there comes a huge storm engulfing the ship entirely beneath the waves.

Delphine manages to rescue the prince taking him to a safe place on land not far from what she thinks must be his palace home, and there she leaves him knowing she must never be seen by human eyes.

As her songs grow ever sadder fuelled by her nightly swims to the cove near the palace, it becomes clear to her sisters that she has fallen in love with the prince.

Determined to become his wife, Delphine visits the sea witch and a deal is struck – a potion to render her human in exchange for her beautiful voice.

But that is just part of the enormous price Delphine has to pay. It’s not she who marries the prince but another beauty.

The tragedy doesn’t end there, as those familiar with the original will know

and others must learn from this utterly enchanting rendition that is made all the more magical by Laura Barrett’s silhouette style illustrations.

Assuredly a book for lovers of fairy tales, young and not so young; buy it to keep and buy it to give; buy it for home and buy it for school.

Can You Find 12 Busy Bees? / Ten Little Aliens

Can You Find 12 Busy Bees?
Jordon Winch and Patrick Shirvington
New Frontier Publishing

Who wouldn’t want to accept Jordon Winch’s invitation to enter the garden Patrick Shirvington so beautifully depicts on the opening spread, and join in the search for the abundance of wildlife residing therein. I for one couldn’t wait to go through the gate and seek out the lizard basking in the sun.

As we wander, lots of different birds introduce themselves starting with ‘2 patient powerful owl chicks’ nestling in a tall old tree …

as well as ‘3 crafty kookaburras, ‘6 merry magpies’ – these are poking around on the lawn, ‘7 flighty fairy-wrens, (in the bushes), ‘8 carefree cockatoos’ and ’10 rowdy rainbow lorikeets’ sipping nectar. Yes, some of these birds may be unfamiliar to young readers outside Australia but discovering new things is part of the pleasure.

Lolling around in the pond are ‘4 fat frogs’ to find; and there are two different kinds of butterflies making up the 5 fluttering through the flowers. We’re not told what kind they are, nor the identity of the 9 green grubs chomping through the foliage, though I hope few youngsters will fail to name the 11 lovely ladybirds’

or the most vital for us all, the ’12 buzzy bees’ of the title, as they forage for food in the flowers.

All these creatures, and readers too will endorse the final ‘We love our garden. We hope it will be there forever.’ And it definitely acts as reminder to make our own gardens wildlife friendly.

Patrick Shirvington’s love of the natural world shines through in his beautiful watercolour scenes that accompany the simple descriptive narrative.

Ten Little Aliens
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books

Aliens of all shapes and hues star in this counting down space adventure wherein the strange beings far from home search for a friendly place to stay.

Seemingly though, their numbers diminish as one receives a FIZZ! from a comet’s tail, another is SPLOOFed by Nova-berries, a Mega-Robot’s honking blasts the next, and a fiery crater fires out bubbling lava at a pink one.
Now we’re down to six and they’re caught in a sudden snowy blizzard. So it goes on with a SNIFF!, a BOING!,

a PARP!, a cry for HELP! as the sat-nav gives up the ghost.

Then, hurrah! Up steps the one remaining – a female alien – with a rescue operation to perform.

Will they ever find a hospitable planet on which to land their space ship? What do you think?

Rhyming fun Brownlow and Rickerty style always hits the spot with little ones and this story on an ever popular topic, with its sprinkling of alliteration is sure to please too.

Secret Agent Elephant

Secret Agent Elephant
Eoin McLaughlin and Ross Collins
Orchard Books

Ever thought about becoming a secret agent? That’s what the large pachyderm in this story has set his sights on; but can he get through the required training course? There’s a pretty rigorous selection process.

The first rule is secrecy about the role: that’s something Elephant definitely needs to do some work on. Hiding is a vital skill but if that’s not possible, perhaps a disguise might do instead …

Our elephant candidate surely does look pretty dapper in that tuxedo: seemingly the tailor can after all, perform the odd miracle.

So, it’s ‘Agent 00-Elephant’ welcome to the Secret Service and now on to your very first mission in double quick time before the dastardly feline Vincent Le Morte, notorious international supervillain presses that big red button of his and wipes out the entire world.

No pressure then Agent Elephant.

It’s time to take that enormous leap.

Hurrah! Vincent’s super-secret hideout located.

All that’s left to do now is discover the whereabouts of Vincent himself without letting your purpose be discovered.

Agent Elephant gets a sighting so he begins tracking his prey who just happens to be heading for that red button.

There’s the occasional hazard en route – sharks for instance as well as the odd distraction of the edible kind.

Oh my goodness, it seems as though someone is expecting a visitor but hang on a minute. Could it be that the latest recruit to the spy fraternity might just be about to save the world …

A pizza-fuelled piece of comedy theatre of the tastiest kind is this picture book collaboration between Eoin McLaughlin and Ross Collins.

Every spread is sure to induce giggles and the way the text works in tandem with the visuals is masterful.

Adults will have great fun sharing this with young audiences; I certainly did.

My Pet Star / Little Fish

My Pet Star
Corrinne Averiss and Rosalind Beardshaw
Orchard Books

Beneath a tree one night, a little girl discovers a star. The star has been hurt by its fall and its glow has gone, so she takes him home.

There she acts as a ‘cosmic super vet’ tenderly nurturing her ‘pet’ star, sharing books with him

and cuddling up with him at bedtime.

The days go by and the young narrator finds out a great deal about her star and his habits and all the while, the star glows brighter. She misses him during the day when he sleeps a lot; and he eschews her games merely looking on silently and benevolently.

At night though, he comes to life, his sparkle preventing the girl from sleeping as he twinkles above her bed – until she makes a decision.

Leaping from her bed she opens wide her window and … whoosh! Away flies her astral friend, fully restored, back into the dark sky where he belongs, from there to brighten up the sky and his new friend’s life from afar.

Corrinne’s magical story demonstrates the importance of kindness, altruism and friendship; it’s beautifully illuminated by Ros. Beardshaw in her mixed media scenes. Her narrator is shown as an adorable child who seems to live alone in a shepherd’s hut or travellers’ caravan.

Little Fish
Emily Rand
Thames & Hudson

Five vibrant, layered neon scenes of life beneath the ocean waves pop out of this book, the covers of which can be tied back to create a standing carousel.

A short rhyming narrative introduces two orange goby fish playing among the corals. The duo become separated when a large shoal swims past sweeping one of them with it, into a dark patch of kelp in which rests a friendly-looking turtle.

Less friendly though is the hungry grouper that lurks in the cave nearby eyeing the little goby. Then, even more scarifying are the white teeth of a marauding shark that appears on the scene snapping its jaws threateningly.

Happily though, the little fish finally makes it back home where it re-joins its playmate on the reef.

A lovely way to introduce your little ones to marine life, but equally this would be great as part of an early years display for a sea-related theme.

Oink! / Daddy Fartypants

In your face or subtle, toilet humour books are always winners with young children: here are a couple of recent, contrasting examples:

Oink!
David Elliot
Gecko Press

David Elliot tells this hilarious tale entirely through delicate watery scenes of a pig’s bathtime along with onomatopoeic sound effects, mostly animal but punctuated by ‘Knock! Knock! (s)

It starts with pig climbing into his, one assumes, eagerly anticipated steaming bath-tub; but he’s no sooner sat back for a relaxing soak when ‘ Knock! Knock!’ “Maaa?” a sheep clad in pink frilly skirt and clutching a toy boat enters and proceeds to climb into the tub. (Her utterance, one assumes is a polite request).

Further knocks see more unruly creatures, first a horned bovine character …

followed by an ungulate (donkey/horse?) ensconcing themselves in pig’s increasingly noisy bath.

Pig though utters not a sound but then … One tub-emptying action later

 

things – or actually animals – start to move …

Peace at last! Time to top up the hot water and relax. Ahhhh! Bliss.

No telling – just showing – and absolutely brilliantly done in Elliott’s subtly comic, brilliantly expressive pencil and watercolour scenes.

An absolutely smashing pre-bedtime sharing book for which your little humans will delight in supplying the various noises. If I was in an early years setting I’d set up a small world play scene complete with tub and animals for the children to act out the tale.

Daddy Fartypants
Emer Stamp and Matt Hunt
Orchard Books

Meet dad bear, farty bum extraordinaire. The trouble is no matter how clear it is that’s he’s the culprit when it comes to noxious rear end emissions, he never never owns up to his trumps and parps. Instead he blames others, no matter who, no matter where, no matter when.

Not a single apology or pardon so much as reaches his lips, no not ever.

One day when collecting his forbearing son from school, Daddy Fartypants encounters an attractive new teacher, Miss Lovelybear and as he eagerly approaches, she lets loose a gargantuan gust from her derrière. And does that teacher issue an excuse? Oh dear me, no she does not: instead she points the paw at guess who … Outrageous!

Game, set and match to Miss L. Her terrible toot triggers a realisation on Daddy F’s part. Repentant, he promises to become a changed character when it comes to rear end rumbles and so far as we know he’s been true to his word.

Totally terrific fun, Emer Stamp has come up trumps with this thoroughly moral tale, and Matt Hunt’s splendid, sonic blast, pant-ripping illustrations speak volumes – quite literally. PHOOAW! Your little ones will relish this book as did this reviewer whose partner could give Daddy Fartypants a run for his money when it comes to windy issuances – he does own up though, I hasten to add.

Monty + Sylvester: A Tale of Everyday Astronauts

Monty + Sylvester: A Tale of Everyday Astronauts
Carly Gledhill
Orchard Books

Space exploration picture books seem to be all the rage at present and here’s another.

We first met this terrific, best pals twosome in A Tale of Every Day Super Heroes and now they are in training to become space explorers. Really? Yes really and thus far their regime has lasted around 20 minutes – we’re allowed to watch Sylvester demonstrating his astro lunge in preparation for their mission to the depths of dark space to find an undiscovered planet and hence become famed as astronauts. Well, let’s see.

Their friends are not totally convinced of the likelihood of their space success telling them so in no uncertain terms.

Undaunted however, the two approach the launch pad where Monty’s ship is at the ready.

Following a successful launch their rocket heads towards ‘deepest, darkest space’ with the crew keeping an eye (or four) out in case of aliens, black holes, or meteors, and hoping to spot an undiscovered planet. All seems to be going well until a black hole looms large …

Fortunately more by luck than judgement, they manage to avoid it, only to run into a meteor shower of galactic proportions. Their meteor shield fails dismally. Could that spell the end of Monty, Sylvester and their mission?

Let’s merely mention little green aliens, leave it there and allow readers to imagine what might happen thereafter; and having done so, head off to the nearest bookshop to grab a copy of this super, silly space tale.

Like her two characters, it seems Carly’s imagination knows no bounds; her scenes of comic chaos are simply out of this world and I love the way she seamlessly integrates the visual and verbal narratives.

Bring on the next adventure says this reviewer who is heading off to grab some more little ones to share this howlingly funny book with.

When the Crocodiles Came to Town / My Funny Bunny

When the Crocodiles Came to Town
Magda Brol
Orchard Books

One day to everyone’s surprise two crocodiles turn up at Dullsville town and judging by their luggage, it seems they’re there to stay.

The problem, so our young narrator explains, is that they look different and behave differently and when it comes to the town’s rules, they show a complete lack of understanding which infuriates the inhabitants, and the mayor more than most, especially when they cavort on the precious golden donkey.

As for their ice-cream stall, that proves too messy and way too much fun for the killjoy Dullsvillites. In no uncertain terms, the crocs are given their marching orders.

That night however, as they pack up their belongings, two other outsiders, Glen and Freda Grabbit creep into the sleeping town helping themselves to items from all the houses.

Their eyes though are on the main prize – that precious golden donkey – and as a result they hurtle straight into the leavers.

A chase ensues but unbeknown to the robbers, the crocs have their own special weapon and it’s a highly effective one when it comes to apprehending the thieves.

Could it be that at as a result of the narrator’s plea to the Dullsville mayor, two leavers are about to become remainers after all?

Debut picture book author/illustrator, Magda Brol has created a very funny story with a very serious message about rejecting prejudice, and accepting and celebrating difference. Her zany illustrative style is action-packed and each spread has a wealth of details to chortle over.

My Funny Bunny
Christine Roussey
Abrams Books for Young Readers

In her latest ‘pet’ book, Christine Roussey features a rabbit and a small boy.

It’s the boy’s sixth birthday and he receives a large gift box from his favourite uncle. Eagerly anticipating the dwarf rabbit of his dreams the lad opens it to discover, yes a bunny, but this one resembles a large potato with yucky, clumpy fur and wire-like whiskers. Hmm!

Thoroughly disappointed, the boy lets off steam in his room before telling his new acquisition that he was unwanted and unlovable; and then going on to carry out a series of destructive acts before collapsing in a sobbing, snivelling heap.

The bunny however, isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. He leaps from the box and makes soothing advances to his owner.

Before long, with damage repaired …

and temper tantrums assuaged, the two have become firm friends, celebrating a funny bunny birthday together and forging a lifelong attachment.

An adorable furry character and an emotional little boy narrator show young readers the importance of getting to know someone or something rather than making a snap judgement.

Roussey’s characteristically quirky illustrations and her outspoken narrative work beautifully in tandem making for a lovely story to share.