With Giving in Mind

Little Hazelnut
Anne-Florence Lemasson and Dominique Ehrhard
Old Barn Books

What a simply gorgeous presentation is this tale of a hazelnut dropped by squirrel …

and buried by a heavy snowfall.
Other woodland animals, furred and feathered, come and go but the nut remains undiscovered.
In the spring, a little tree shoot emerges – literally – and a sapling begins to develop: a little nut tree, no less.

Readers are taken on a journey through the changing seasons in this wonderfully crafted pop-up story. The limited colour palette and occasional patterned backgrounds are most effective and the paper-engineering superb.
A book to share, to treasure and to give.

Greatest Magical Stories
Chosen by Michael Morpurgo
Oxford University Press

Michael Morpurgo has selected a dozen magical tales from different parts of the world for this collection, the final one of which, Jack and the Beanstalk is his own retelling. This first person telling from Jack Spriggins aka ‘Poor Boy Jack’ is especially engaging for young listeners. Morpurgo also provides an introduction as well as an introductory paragraph to each story.
Ten illustrators have been used with Victoria Assanelli and Bee Willey having two tales each. Most arresting as far as I’m concerned are Ian Beck’s wonderful silhouettes for Adèle Geras’ rendition of The Pied Piper.

From Japan comes Yoshi the Stonecutter, retold by Becca Heddle and beautifully illustrated by Meg Hunt, the only non-European offering.
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk are ‘almost part of our DNA’ says Morpurgo in his introduction: they are universal.
Perhaps not a first collection but this read aloud volume is certainly one worth adding to a family bookshelf or primary classroom collection.
Not included in the above but certainly magical is:

Beauty and the Beast
illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova
Templar Publishing

To satisfy his youngest daughter’s wish, a merchant steals a rose from the garden of a hideous-looking beast and Beauty, to save her father’s life, goes in his place to the Beast’s palace, falls in love with him and well, you know the rest.
The classic fairy tale is retold in a truly beautiful rendition – a feat of paper-engineering and lavish, cut out illustrations by self-taught illustrator Dinara Mirtalipova.

She has created six multi-layered scenes by using three layers of paper cut to look 3D, so that each spread simply springs into life when the page is turned.
I really had to exercise my powers of persuasion to get one listener to part with my copy after we’d shared it.

A Child’s Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Michael Foreman
Otter-Barry Books

I clearly remember my father reading Robert Louis Stevenson poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses on many occasions; most notably Rain. The Swing, From a Railway Carriage, Autumn Fires, Where Go the Boats? and my very favourite, Windy Nights (which I still know by heart).
Here’s a beautiful book of those same poems that were first published in 1885, and a century later illustrated by Michael Foreman, beautifully packaged with a foreword by Alexander McCall Smith for a new generation of listeners and readers.
For me Foreman is the perfect illustrator for the poems, his watercolours imbuing them with a sense of timelessness and innocence. One for the family bookshelf.

Space Adventure Activity Book
illustrated by Jen Alliston
Button Books

There’s plenty to engage young children during the long winter evenings in this space-themed activity book. There are things to count, to colour and to make; plenty of puzzles, wordsearches and more, plus 4 pages of stickers. All you need are pens, pencils, scissors, a paper plate or so, a couple of sponges and 2 rubber bands (to convert your shoes to moon boots) and some basic ingredients for the Stellar Cakes (plus the help of an adult).
With 60 pages of spacey fun, this should help fill a fair few hours of darkness.

Welcome Spring

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David A. Carter
Abrams Appleseed
Spring quite simply explodes into life in this small, vibrantly coloured pop-up book.
As the rain falls pitter-pat rippling the surface of the pond, tadpoles emerge to take their chance as the koi carp swim around and a dragonfly hovers.

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Away from the pond a cherry tree bursts into bloom and tree frogs croak to acknowledge the rain as it waters the blossoms that give food for the bees.

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The flowers are alive with visitors and an adult bird feeds its young.
Half a dozen spreads, each one a visual treat, with a brief accompanying text and lots of labels, some of which are indicative of the book’s US origins, there’s plenty to enjoy and discuss with young children herein.

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Abracadabra, It’s Spring
Anne Sibley O’Brien and Susan Gai
Abrams Appleseed
‘Sun warms a patch of snow.
Where did it go?’

Thus begins a simply gorgeous evocation of the arrival of spring as we watch bulbs popping up …

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and opening …

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pussy willows bursting out, leaves unfurling, birds arriving and nesting, eggs …

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butterflies emerging and blossoms opening to adorn the trees. It’s time to shed those heavy winter boots and embrace all that’s bright and new now that winter’s gone.
Both words and pictures are uplifting. The text is a mix of the gentle poetic and contrasting lively effervescent magical invocation orchestrating the change: take for instance:
Grey cocoons/hide a surprise. Abba zaba!/ (open gatefold)/Butterflies!

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There is so much to see in the illustrations each of which has a gatefold opening. Every spread unfolds to reveal an aspect of spring’s new life in dazzling layered collages alive with colour and creatures.
In addition to being a delight to share, this will surely inspire children to get creating themselves.

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I Spy …


I Spy in the Sky …
Edward Gibbs
Templar Publishing (Brubaker, Ford & Friends)
Information is painlessly and playfully  absorbed as young readers engage in a game of I-Spy in this series; here the focus is birds, the format is the same as for previous titles.
On the right hand side of each double spread is a die-cut peep hole. This offers an up-close view of a portion of a wing of the particular flying creature being ‘spied’ be it parrot, hummingbird, pelican, eagle, owl or other bird. The left-hand page provides a look at the bird in question’s own eye. To aid the guessing there are factual verbal clues relating to food, manner of flying, and colour of plumage whilst a glimpse of the animal’s habitat is presented across the double spread; add to that additional information in the form of speech bubbles, then turn the page to reveal a wonderfully dramatic vision of the bird itself executed in Edward Gibbs’ characteristically bold style.
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Maisy’s World of Animals
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
Join an appropriately clad and equipped Maisy and visit such contrasting environments as the icy Arctic, snow-capped alpine mountains, the scorching sandy desert, the hot grassy savannah,


the Oceanic depths, a lush jungle and finally, the freezing South Pole. At each location we are can spot four different kinds of animal (except at the Pole), one or more of which can be moved by a tab-pull or opening flap.
Yes, I’m sure the very young will  be absorbing some basic science concepts but more important, they will be expanding their horizons, increasing their vocabulary and vitally, having fun sharing the book with an adult or older child. How long the movable parts will last in enthusiastic hands, I’m not sure, but I suspect this one, like other Maisy titles, will get many re-reads.
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Pip and Posy Look and Say
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Illustrations from Pip and Posy’s other titles have been reworked into this large format I Spy book. My first thoughts when I saw the title of this one were: Are the publishers/author trying to oust the current phonic obsession that presently holds our nation’s beginning readers in its thrall? Would that they were.
Actually though I don’t think that is the intention (more’s the pity). This is essentially a sequence of playful scenes showing the friends in a variety of locations – the park,


the town, home and garden engaged in those everyday activities that can make special moments for small children. We see them scooting, flying a balloon, peering out at two birds tugging at a worm in the rain, tobogganing, pulling off wellies, playing with building blocks and trains, sharing a snack, dressing up, using play-dough and more. Each double page scene has an accompanying narrative and underneath is a series of eight small, captioned, telescope-view style pictures preceded by an invitation from a minibeast, bird or toy “Can you find these things?” Hence, many hours of enjoyable togetherness with small child, book and adult or older sibling.
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Not actually an ‘I-Spy’ book, rather one that invites the very young to count is:


Giraffe’s Jungle Boogie
Liza Miller and Sarah Pitt
Templar Publishing
Giraffe loves to dance but without a tune to follow, she makes it a leg-tangling disaster. Off she goes (seemingly armed or should that be legged?) with instruments in search of a band to keep her on beat. She encounters in turn one elephant – he receives a bell, two monkeys – they get cymbals, three zebras – drums for them


and four lions – they become banjo strummers. But then elephant downs tools or rather bell and the other animals quickly follow suit. Time for some quick thinking and a new plan… Before long there is a reconvened group starring an elephant trumpeter and five jiving giraffes.
Having said this isn’t an I-spy book, it could, with the assistance of an adult mediator, very easily become one. As well as the animals to count, there are all manner of minibeasts, brightly coloured flowers, musical instruments and other items in the landscape to spot and/or count.
With jolly, bright and often amusing, images from Sarah Pitt, paper engineered pop-ups by Jonathan Litton and Liza Miller’s rhyming text, this one should provide lots to engage preschoolers.
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Stephen Biesty’s Giant Vehicles
Stephen Biesty, Rod Green and Andy Mansfield
Templar Publishing
This sturdy book (it will need to be) is a veritable feast for the eyes, not to mention the mind. Biesty has chosen eight giant movers to be the subjects of this thoroughly engrossing info-graphic book. The featured whoppers are ‘The Super-Train’, The Giant Jumbo (Airbus A380), The Whopper Chopper (Russian Halo helicopter),


Saturn V, the rocket that powered the Apollo spacecraft, The Caterpillar 797F dumper truck, floating hotel the Oasis of the Seas, the Russian naval submarine Typhoon and the world’s biggest ship Maersk Triple-E.
Countless hours, weeks even, of child (or adult come to that) absorbed in book are assured with this one. In addition to the numerous written facts (provided by Rod Green) visible on the page, lift the flaps – over 40 in all – (Andy Mansfield engineered those) to reveal further informative annotations to Biesty’s mind bogglingly detailed, pen/ink and watercolor washed, illustrations.
I can see it being read to death – literally. Buy to give and buy to keep. It’s an infinitely better way to turn young minds on to science/technology than any endless testing regime.
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