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.

Gerald the Lion

Gerald the Lion
Jessica Souhami
Otter-Barry Books

In a departure from her more usual folk tale renditions Jessica Souhami sets her tale of Gerald in an urban jungle.
Full of boldness Gerald the lion – a character youngsters will instantly see is a domesticated grey cat – decides to explore his neighbourhood jungle.

It’s an environment full of strange sounds and sights – there’s the roar of creatures in the tree branches,

weird beings from outer space (a trio of snails); hungry crocodiles swimming in the lake, and some giants stop to speak to him when he pauses his perambulation.

Suddenly there appears a fiery dragon that causes Gerald to leap in alarm

and then he finds himself lost and completely alone.

Poor Gerald: will he find his way back home?

We all, but especially young children, hear strange noises from time to time imagining all kinds of scary things might be lurking, and so it is here in Jessica’s simple but clever tale: a tale wherein the incongruity between her telling of the extended joke and her hallmark bold, bright collage style illustrations work perfectly together.

With its large clear print this book is ideal for early reading as well as for sharing with little ones during story sessions where I envisage it becoming a firm favourite.

My Friends

My Friends
Max Low
Otter-Barry Books

We don’t actually meet the narrator of this book until the final endpapers but that’s getting ahead of things, so let’s be content and accept the invitation to meet ‘My Friends’.

An interesting and diverse lot they definitely are, starting with Mossy, the perfect friend for some quiet interchange or silent contemplation.
Then comes lion-loving Archibald …

followed by cloud watching Ezra who points out all manner of interesting shapes drifting across the sky.

There’s Pepper who cooks tasty food; Olga, the music lover;

Herman the knitter (or should that be, tangler); the inventive Lina ; Bert who cares for minibeasts on account of their smallness and his bigness

as well as Plim and an imaginary friend, Klaus.
Each is unique, special and loved; but occasionally it’s good to be on your own.

And as for the narrator, I’m not revealing the identity of same – you’ll have to get hold of a copy of the book to find that out.

This quirky, playful look at friendship offers a great starting point for exploring the topic with young listeners who will readily relate to rising star, Max Low’s bold bright images.

Why not treat your friend to a copy to celebrate International Friendship Day on 30th July?

Astro Girl / Where’s Mr Astronaut?

Astro Girl
Ken Wilson-Max
Otter-Barry Books

Space and stars enthusiast Astrid wants to become an astronaut, so she tells Jake her best pal as they lie stargazing.

She goes on to tell the same to her papa over breakfast.

He challenges her assertion with comments about orbiting the Earth in a spaceship, dining on food from tubes and packets, becoming used to zero gravity, conducting scientific experiments …

and sleeping alone among the stars: he seems pretty knowledgeable about life in space. Astrid assures her Papa that she can manage all those things even the solo sleeping.

The day comes for the two of them to go and collect Mama in the car.

It’s then that we discover the possible reason for Astrid’s enthusiasm about space and her Papa’s knowledge.

A joyful reunion takes place and thereafter the little girl starts reading avidly to learn as much as she can about how to achieve her ambition, and about some of those trailblazing astronauts who went before, several of whom were women.

Simply and beautifully told, Ken keeps readers interested in the theme by showing us space related items such as Astrid’s t-shirt, her breakfast cereal, Papa’s T-shirts, the cookie shapes they bake together, pictures, a toy – all of which help in the build-up to the grand finale.

A smashing book for young space enthusiasts and perhaps to share on Father’s Day.

For a younger audience is:


Where’s Mr Astronaut?
Ingela P.Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Vibrant, immediately appealing illustrations characterise Ingela P.Arrhenius’ latest title for the ‘flaps and mirror’ series in an amusing introduction to space exploration for the very youngest.

The space travellers hidden herein are a delightful mix of human, canine and alien. There’s Mrs Engineer, Mr Space Dog, Mrs Alien,

Mr Astronaut and finally, whoever happens to be looking in the mirror tucked beneath the felt moon flap.

This one’s sure to add to the deserved popularity of the hide-and-seek series.

Me and Mrs Moon

Me and Mrs Moon
Helen Bate
Otter-Barry Books

In her familiar graphic novel style, Helen Bate tells a powerful story of how two children, narrator Maisie and her friend Dylan, set about helping their beloved friend and neighbour Granny Moon as she shows signs that all is not well.
Granny Moon has looked after the children during holidays for years filling their days – rain or shine – with fun and adventure.

One day though, things start going wrong.
First Granny Moon is talking about a sister Julia she doesn’t have and later the film about aliens she takes the children to scares Dylan and they have to leave.

As Christmas approaches, things get worse. At the school concert Granny causes disruptions and other children start making fun of her.

Time passes but there are further problems. Granny Moon convinces herself that a little girl is trapped in her radiator and then Dylan’s dad notices her unusual behaviour and is doubtful about whether she should still be allowed to look after his son.

Eventually Maisie’s mum decides to phone Granny’s daughter, Angela in Australia.

Maisie and Dylan then worry about the fate of Granny Moon and her beloved dog, Jack; will Angela decide to put her in a care home? Worse, the friends return home late from school after a café visit with Granny Moon to find a fire engine outside and fire-fighters waiting for them. Thankfully though, there’s no serious damage.

Next day Angela arrives and is extremely troubled by what she finds. She decides there’s only one thing to do. Granny Moon’s house is put on the market and happily it’s not a care home that she’s going to but Australia to live with Angela and her family.

Three days later, fond farewells are exchanged and Angela and Granny depart. A certain animal isn’t accompanying them though, he has a new home – next door with Maisie who now has a companion to share memories about her erstwhile owner with whenever she needs.

The final page lists organisations that offer help for people with dementia, their families and carers.

Love and devotion radiate from the pages of this intensely moving story (based on actual events); but it doesn’t gloss over the enormous challenges those caring for someone with dementia are likely to face. Rather, it offers young readers an opportunity to better understand something of the condition and perhaps be better prepared should they encounter someone living with it.

This is a book that deserves to be in every school and should be read in all families. Particularly, as I was reminded by a charity worker from The Alzheimer’s Society who stopped me as I left Waitrose recently that while I might not know anybody with Alzheimer’s, over a quarter of the population knows someone who has this form of dementia alone.

Migrations Open Hearts Open Borders

Migrations Open Hearts Open Borders
Introduction by Shaun Tan
Otter-Barry Books

llustrators from all over the world responded to the request by The International Centre for the Picture Book in Society (based at the University of Worcester) to create an original postcard for the 2017 Migrations exhibition to be displayed at Bibiana, Bratislava. The exhibition’s creators felt that the installation should reach a wider audience and this wonderful book is the outcome, although the fifty or so images representing 32 countries reproduced in their actual size herein, are only a selection of the hundreds of postcards they received.

Each of the postcards in its unique way focuses on the positive impact of the migration of peoples the world over, showing how the flow of ideas and cultures transcends borders, barriers and even bans.

The book is divided into four themes: Departures, Long Journeys, Arrivals and Hope for the Future.

I would love to show every single one of the awesome, enormously moving postcards but can only make a very small selection for this review, so have included representatives for each of the themes, which spoke to me on my very first reading.

Departures: In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take./ It begins with a single step …                 Rhian Wyn Harrison – UK.

Long Journeys: The skies have no borders.      Christopher Corr – UK

Arrivals: New friends coming from afar / bring us different tales!                        Marcelo Pimentel – Brazil

Hope for the Future: Share the world in peace and freedom. / The Earth and its people have no owners.           Isol – Argentina

On another day I may well have picked completely different ones, such is the power of each contribution, some of which use quotes from writers including John Clare, WB Yeats, Anita Desai and Robert Macfarlane.

If ever there was a time in our increasingly fractured world when we need this treasure of a book, it’s now. Let’s hope that those of us with open hearts who want open borders continue working to make a difference for, as Shaun Tan writes at the start of this book ‘All migration is an act of imagination, a flight of imagination. A hope that frequently exercises a previously unknown human potential. … What can be done? … That’s for us, the living, the thinking and feeling: descendants through millennia of successful migration – whose ancestors dreamed of something better … It’s left for us to imagine what to do, to pass on the dividends of hope that have been invested in us.’

Re-reading his message in its entirety in a week when our UK politicians continue wrangling about how – the universe forbid it happens – we should leave the European Union, brought tears to my eyes. Everyone needs a copy of Migrations; it reaches out to us all, offering another beacon on the uphill climb towards the creation of a better world for everyone, young, old and in-between.
(All royalties are donated to Amnesty International and IBBY)