What’s that Noise?

What’s that Noise?
Naomi Howarth
Otter-Barry Books

Naomi Howarth introduces young readers and listeners to seven wonderful Arctic animals in her latest story.

Set in the frozen north we meet first of all, a ringed seal Magnus, a very fine creature that is woken one morning from his deep slumbers by a loud, low rumbling that he doesn’t recognise.
Could it be the wind perhaps, or the sea, or even a crumbling iceberg? Eager to identify the sound he sets off, asking first his friend Hare but Hare is equally puzzled.

Over the ice they go together, stopping by the forest to ask Owl. She knows it’s not the trees creaking but nothing more, so they travel further.

Neither Fox on the snowy rocks,

nor Polar Bear beside the icy river knows, but when they reach the sea they meet Walrus who has a suggestion that might just help find the source of those rumbly emanations …

Mystery solved, the animal friends enjoy a feast and then settle down to sleep … rumble, rumble, rumble – now what could it be this time?

Naomi Howarth’s gently humorous telling with its simplicity and repeat pattern has the feel of a folk tale while her watercolour illustrations are outstandingly gorgeous. She succeeds in portraying the animals realistically in their Arctic setting and yet readers can relate to them as real characters capable of showing feelings.

Make sure you peruse the back inside cover where there are key facts about the creatures from the story.

The History of Prehistory

The History of Prehistory
Mick Manning and Brita Granström
Otter-Barry Books

Team Manning and Granström present another first-rate non-fiction book for young readers.

We join their two child protagonists as they set off on an incredible adventure that takes them back 4 billion years to the time when Earth was volcanic and still way too hot to support life.

To travel from those fiery beginnings of Earth and Moon right through to the Bronze Age (5.300 to 3,200 year ago) is an awesome journey that encompasses a stop to investigate the explosion of life during the Cambrian period,

followed by a canoe trip to view the giant fungi of the late Silurian Period.

From then animal life proliferates and the time travellers encounter an incredible array of creatures including giant dragonflies, the first completely land-based reptiles; and even more awesome they get to fly on the backs of Pterosaurs above such dinosaurs as Diplodocuses.

Having investigated the Periods when dinosaurs ruled, they pause to spend a while with tree-dwelling mammals before they join the clever apes of the Miocene Epoch as they swing above the forest floor and on to the Pliocene Epoch to meet our earliest two-legged human ancestors.

With a lively narrative that respects young readers by using the correct terminology and splendid, gently humorous scenes of the various creatures, as well as a glossary and timeline game, this exciting book will be avidly read by individuals fascinated with past times as well as being welcomed by teachers using it to support the primary curriculum.

The Last Tiger

The Last Tiger
Petr Horáček
Otter-Barry Books

Animal freedom and conservation are the themes underlying Petr Horáček’s stunningly illustrated, ominously titled new book that begins in the jungle where there dwells a fearless tiger, the strongest, most powerful creature of all.

When a group of hunters come to the jungle, the other animals are alarmed and flee into hiding, urging the tiger to do likewise.

Undaunted the tiger ignores their warning and he’s spotted by the men who are determined to capture the beautiful creature.

Back to the city they go only to return with more men and a plan.
Luring the tiger into a net, they catch him, and he’s taken away and put in a cage for all to see.

In captivity, the unhappy tiger dreams only of running free in the jungle and gradually wastes away. The humans lose interest in him

and one night he’s able to slip between the bars of his cage.

Free once more, the tiger regains his strength and stature while always remembering that what he values most is being free.

Very much a modern fable, this thought provoking book with its vibrant, richly patterned art invites readers of all ages to consider the fragility of freedom itself.

Fiddle Dee Dee!

Fiddle Dee Dee!
Dianne Hofmeyr and Piet Grobler
Otter-Barry Books

This trickster tale featuring a clever monkey had its origins in a collection of South African folktales but for her retelling, Dianne Hofmeyr has changed the villainous wolf for a hyena.

Monkey comes upon a strange-looking object while digging around beneath a tree. As he plucks it out comes a sound, “Fiddle dee dee! Look what I see! / A musical bow. / Lucky monkey! Lucky me! / Luckiest monkey in the whole country,” he sings.

Along comes Hyena claiming the bow to be his and threateningly accusing Monkey of stealing it.

To solve their dispute,Tortoise advises them to consult Lion and off they go to find him.

Lion however, is not the fair and just creature he’s reputed to be and demands the bow for himself.

Monkey begs to be given a final chance to play the instrument and Lion accedes.

The music he plays enchants the other animals, including Lion and they start to dance. Monkey plays faster, the creatures dance faster and faster

and eventually as night falls, they’re all completely exhausted.

Taking advantage of the situation Monkey makes another request and finally secures the bow once and for all.

In her usual animated fashion with plenty of dialogue, Dianne Hofmeyr has refashioned this folk tale from the African continent that is a lively read aloud. Grobler’s scratchy characters are a mix of endearing humour and downright scariness. They certainly snare the attention and whether one is alarmed or amused, each scene offers a wealth of quirky detail to pore over.

Binky’s Time to Fly!

Binky’s Time to Fly!
Sharmila Collins and Carolina Rabei
Otter-Barry Books

Binky has always wanted to be a beautiful butterfly but when his big day finally comes, he discovers to his dismay that instead of powerful wings, despite their shape, his are fragile, holey things, so wispy they won’t lift him up. Dreams in tatters, he creeps away to hide.

Some time later, two other butterflies that had emerged at the same time discover him and offer to help.

Seeking the assistance of the silkworms, the spiders and the bees, the team work away until at last Binky’s wings are transformed.

They look amazing but will they allow him to take off ?

Acknowledging his inherent difference but thankful and full of hope, Binky watches as his friends flutter above and then responding to their call, “It’s time to fly!’ he carefully unfurls his wings and at last …

Incorporating themes of inclusion and empathy, this movingly told and illustrated story demonstrates the power of co-operation and determination.

As Sharmila, the author says in a final note, this is a book about hope and freedom. Her eldest daughter, the inspiration for the story, has the fragile skin condition epidermis bullosa and to aid the finding of a cure, Sharmila founded the charity Cure EB to which her royalties will be donated.

Rich in pattern and texture Carolina Rabei’s expressive mixed media illustrations are reflective of the softly spoken, uplifting narrative.

The Yum Yum Tree

The Yum Yum Tree
Jonnie Wild and Brita Granström
Otter-Barry Books

This, the third story to feature the Five Flamingos begins with a cry for help from Monkey. Her baby is stuck up in a Yum Yum Tree.

While the other animals are debating the unlikelihood of such an event on account of its difficulty to climb, evidence of the baby’s position comes in the form of a cascade of fruits from above.

That precipitates a series of rescue operation proposals first from Hippopotamus (his bouncy belly is offered as a soft landing); followed by an attempt to use said belly as a springboard by Zebra, which fails even more dramatically.

Crocodile gets his just desserts (not the baby monkey) for his wily attempt leaving just the Five Flamingos to show the way and they’re pretty convinced their idea is going to work.

Seemingly the quintet know something about baby monkey psychology

and not long after all the animals are participating in a celebratory party thrown by a grateful mum Monkey; or maybe not quite all the animals …

Absolutely bound to induce instant delight is the surprise finale of Jonnie’s smashing tale of problem solving and community.

Brita’s comical illustrations are a treat making every spread a giggle worthy delight for both listeners and adult readers aloud. If you’ve yet to encounter this particular group of African animals then start here, but be sure to catch up with their previous adventures.

Some Recent Young Fiction

Sophie’s Further Adventures
Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Walker Books

This is a new edition containing three books in one, so it’s a bumper bundle of stories about the adorable, animal-mad little Sophie. I remember children in my early days of teaching avidly lapping up the stories when she first appeared on the scene back as an uncompromising four-year old who discovered a snail that led to her passion for all things animal.

In these three adventures she visits the farm, learns to ride, and pays a visit to great Aunt Al in the Scottish Highlands.

I asked the opinion of precocious reader, 6 year old Emmanuelle, who quickly became absorbed in the book. She commented that she particularly loved reading about Sophie riding Bumblebee the pony and later drew a picture of her doing so. She also said it made her want to try horse riding herself.

Seemingly the determined Sophie, still has the capacity to delight especially with Hannah Shaw’s illustrations that give the stories a fresh, present day feel.

Here Comes Lolo
Hooray for Lolo

Niki Daly
Otter-Barry Books

These books are part of a mini series for new solo readers starring young Lolo, a sparky young character who lives with her Mama and Gogo (gran) in South Africa.

Both titles have four stories each being just the right length to consume in a single sitting.

In the first book Lolo wins a longed-for gold star for reading, loses it, then gives it away; acquires a much-wanted, rather large hat; finds a lost engagement ring in the street;

and reports a lost dog and in so-doing assists in the arrest of a thief.

Along the way, helped by Niki’s delightful line drawings, we discover much about Lolo’s family life, her school life, her friendships and interests.

In Hooray for Lolo, the friendship with best pal Lulu is threatened when Lolo thinks she hasn’t been invited to her birthday party; she becomes a member of the library and chooses her first picture book which subsequently goes missing; wakes up one day with tummy ache and ends up having an operation, and finally, discovers that baby-sitting Bongi is exhausting work.

Sparkly stories all, with lots of gentle humour that will win Lolo lots of friends among young readers who are sure to enjoy making the acquaintance of this enormously engaging girl.

Princess of Pets: The Lost Puppy
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

When Princess Bea discovers a puppy in the fountain of the palace grounds, she knows that she’ll have to find it somewhere else to live for it’s against her father’s rules to have pets in their home. But with frantic preparations for the evening’s banquet under way, not to mention the deportment lessons she’s supposed to be having, keeping a lively puppy hidden at Ruby Palace in the meantime is a huge challenge.

Then there’s the matter of the threat to the café belonging to her best friend Keira’s parents, that, so she discovers over dinner, her father’s guests, are planning to demolish to make way for the mansion they intend to build. Bea is determined to thwart that plan.

Can she achieve both goals? Possibly, with her kind heart and strong resolve, together with help from her best pal and perhaps some special spring rolls from the café.

Fans of the Princess series will likely devour this addition to the series at a single sitting.