Board Books Matter

Board books form the bedrock of children’s reading – or rather one hopes they do; but not all new parents appreciate their potential and their importance. Thanks to Little Tiger, here are some new titles. The first is already published the others will be early in February.

Where’s My Unicorn?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger
Right from a very young age, there seems to be a magnetic attraction between young children, (girls mostly) and unicorns, so I’m sure this textured book will please.

Its first spread shows the rear end of a hoofed animal that has left a trail of footprints as clues to follow through the pages until the missing unicorn is found on the final spread hiding in plain sight.

On the way little ones encounter a mermaid with a colourful tail, a flamingo with soft fluffy plumage and a narwhal with a magical horn.

Tactile hide-and-seek fun for tinies who can enjoy the search as well as joining in with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my unicorn?’ Becky Davies provides the words, giving a sentence about each creature; Kate McLelland has created the alluring visuals.

What Can You See: On the Farm?
Kate Ware and Maria Perera
Little Tiger

As well as providing an introduction to what might be seen on a farm, and something to count on each spread, this, the first of a new ‘spot and count’ series provides plenty to interest little ones in Maria Perera’s jolly scenes of farm life.

First we visit the farm shop where different kinds of delicious-looking vegetables are on sale. Lunchtime is an opportunity to watch the sheep being fed; the pigs too need feeding and fruit trees near their sty supply a wealth of apples when they’re ready for eating.

The farm also has a duck pond alongside which is a weeping willow; there are several different kinds of birds to see in that scene.

Later in the year, the combine harvester gathers the wheat from a field where lots of small creatures have made their homes; and finally it’s teatime and the farmer collects eggs from the barn where there are hens, cows while other animals scamper along the rafters.

Toddlers can by means of the die-cut visuals, acquire some facts, do some counting and develop their observation skills, using Kate Ware’s words as guidance.

I Can Do It!
Patricia Hegarty and Hilli Kushnir
Caterpillar Books

Try teaching preschool and reception age children and you’d be amazed how many 4/5 year olds start school unable to dress themselves properly. I know parents find it easier when they’re rushed in the mornings to dress their youngsters but essentially this is deskilling children. Much better to set time aside to help them learn in a playful manner to cope with zips, buttons, poppers, laces and Velcro type fastenings themselves.

This robust board book with Patricia’s text and Hilli Kushnir’s enticing illustrations will be a boon in this respect.

Using five little children as models, the narrative provides an introduction to each fastening with instructions on how to work it, and asks each time ‘Can you fasten the …? alongside a bold, bright illustration of a child wearing the item needing to be done up.

One boy fastens shirt buttons, a little girl zips up her hoodie,

another boy does up the hooks and loops fastening on his coat; a child closes the popper on a backpack and finally a little girl has lace-up shoes to tie up on her trainers.

Fun, instructive and I assure you, early years teachers will be truly thankful if your child can manage all the five fastenings.

Little Bird Lost

Alesha enjoying reading the story    for herself

Little Bird Lost
Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Sebastiaan Van Doninck
Stripes Books

Many possible interpretations spring to mind on reading Patricia Hegarty’s tale of Little Bird and the kind hearted Deer that comes to his aid when he hears a plaintive “Chick-kee!” coming from a pile of leaves and discovers a small injured bird that has crash landed on the forest floor.

Little Bird has become separated from his flock, and having consulted his forest friends, Deer undertakes to ‘follow the sun’ towards the warmer place they think the flock is heading to.

Thus begins an adventurous, sometimes hazardous journey

that takes them through the forest and through the seasons

to spring.

By then much has happened: Little Bird’s wing has healed, a strong friendship has been formed between the two travellers and with spring – a time of hope – other things too are evolving …

Now though, it’s time to bid farewell to a very special friend, safe in the knowledge that a friendship such as that is forever …

Poignant and immersive, this is the latest in Stripes Publishing’s full-colour fiction series– especially aptly with this story, for those readers just flying solo. How powerful it is to discover a book that you can almost read unaided and that’s what happened with one such reader, Alesha.
As much as the story, she loved Sebastiaan Van Doninck’s splendidly expressive illustrations and stopped several times to comment on how both they and the narrative made her feel. Spring was her favourite section: “I was excited when Little Bird found he could fly; it made me so happy.

Two Bears

Two Bears
Patricia Hegarty and Rotem Teplow
Caterpillar Books

As simplistic as Patricia Hegarty’s story may at first seem on the surface, Two Bears is a picture book with important themes that can be appreciated and discussed on many levels.

It’s a story of two very different bears from very different worlds, far apart … until they are displaced by the consequences of human actions.

Grizzly Bear’s northern forest home is ravaged by fires caused by man’s selfish actions.

Polar Bear’s Arctic home is also in dire trouble as the ice cap starts to melt on account of global warming.

Consequently each bear embarks on a long journey, Polar Bear moving south; Grizzly Bear going in a northerly direction to find food.

Their travels are arduous, the weather testing and food scarce, causing the bears to get thinner and thinner; still though, they remain strong in order to stay alive.

Just before they lose hope the two bears meet.

Yes, they have some superficial differences but what they have in common allows them to transcend all else and thus begin a peaceful life of understanding and togetherness ; and come spring, something very exciting takes place …

Rotem Teplow’s captivating illustrations show the bears’ physical and mental journeys as they seek safety far from their homes, helping to make the book one that successfully combines storytelling with information about the predicament of the bears. The inside cover gives brief details about this and explains how both species are attempting to cope with being under continuing threat.

On Sleepy Hill / I Love You Brighter than the Stars

On Sleepy Hill
Patricia Hegarty and Xuan Le
Caterpillar Books

Layered scenes of the natural world as the day draws to a close and accompanying rhyming couplets give sleepy humans the opportunity to view and bid goodnight to the inhabitants of first a woodland where baby rabbits return to their burrows and a little wolf peers from a hollow. Then, the bank of a mountain stream whereon a black bear watches his cubs while otters take a last look at the evening and a mother duck gathers up her ducklings.

Further up, in a mountain clearing, deer and foxes make for home and the geese fly back to their nest, and even higher while caribou and boars are almost ready for sleep,

the owl swoops, watching and waiting.

The soporific narrative and cutaway pages of the fauna and flora of Sleepy Hill should work their magic on little humans when they too are almost ready for their slumbers.

I Love You Brighter than the Stars
Owen Hart and Sean Julian
Little Tiger

Books that celebrate the forever love between parent and child seem, like the sentiment they express, never ending. Indeed this is the second from Owen Hart and Sean Julian and rather than polar bears this one features a brown bear and its cub.

While they walk together as the evening sun gives way to moonlight and stars, the adult’s gentle heartfelt words to the cub promise lifelong guidance, companionship, support and the kind of love that is there no matter what, no matter where.

As they climb the hill, the two pause to gaze at the wonders of the natural world and at the star-filled sky

before taking a moonlit dip in the mountain stream.

Then it’s time to head home and sleep, the cub safe in the knowledge that as the wind sings a gentle lullaby it is loved ‘more than all the stars that sparkle through the night.’ Who could wish for more than that?

Soft spoken, rhyming reassurance and beautiful land- and sky-scapes make for a book that is ideal bedtime sharing for adults and their little ones.

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves / Dolphins

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves
Britta Teckentrup and Patricia Hegarty
Little Tiger

In her latest non-fiction, die-cut peep-through picture book, in a series of wondrous scenes Britta Teckentrup plunges us beneath the ocean waves, way, way down to view the wonders of the deep.

Amid the corals and seaweed fronds we see small fish, sponges, tiny graceful sea horses; a baby dolphin and its mother chirping and clicking in communication, a Lionfish with its poison spines ready to use should it be attacked.

Suddenly there’s a feeling of fear: the fish sense danger as a great white shark casts its shadow. The other sea creatures though, employ their defence mechanisms while the tropical fish swim in formation and all is well.

Night comes and the ocean is a-glow with light;

his song echoing far the humpback whale sings for all to hear, the manatee glides through sea grasses and the corals provide safe spaces for small ocean creatures.

Patricia Hegarty’s lyrical text ends with a plea to protect ocean life by keeping the oceans clean and free from rubbish.

Dolphins!
Laurence Pringle and Meryl Henderson
Boyds Mills Press

Pringle immediately grabs readers’ attention with his introductory ‘If you were a young dolphin, your mother would keep you close, feed you milk and teach you’ that could almost be referring to a human mother. The remainder of the paragraph however negates that with its ‘Soon you would learn to swim fast and catch fish to eat. And sometimes you would leap from the water, high into the air!’ while his final statement on the first page “People would be very curious about the secrets of your life beneath the surface’ sets the scene for the remainder of this fascinating book.

It covers many aspects of the thirty or so dolphin species including classification, morphology and physiology. There’s a fascinating account of dolphins’ use of echolocation;

another of feeding – dolphins are predators, consuming huge amounts of food daily –

and communication. I learned that in addition to sounds, dolphins send messages with their bodies, sometimes by rubbing skins, at others, by touching flippers.

All this and more is related in the author’s highly readable prose that is superbly illustrated by Meryl Hendersen in watercolour and pencil.

Although it’s likely that this will be read by individuals, this book also works really well if read aloud – a testament to the quality of the author’s writing.

The Song of the Dinosaurs

The Song of the Dinosaurs
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Hegbrook
Caterpillar Books

Dinosaurs are endlessly fascinating to young children and for every book on the topic published there’s a new audience ready to lap it up.

This one with its rhyming narrative and alluring die-cut illustrations immediately transports readers back to the prehistoric world with Patricia Hegarty’s opening lines, ‘I am the song of the dinosaurs, / For millions of years my tune filled the air … / In the whisper of leaves, caught up on the breeze, / Travelling unseen, but I was still there.’

They are introduced to a line-up of dinosaurs set against richly coloured landscapes and the cleverly placed die-cuts on each spread invite the reader to turn the page forwards.

Thomas Hegbrook’s vibrant scenes are a visual treat for your little dino. enthusiasts as they follow the evolutionary story from the depths of the sea, up into the skies and over land, ‘through rocks and sand.’

The back endpapers show an illustrated time line.

Patricia’s lyrical text is both atmospheric and factual; and in combination with Thomas’ illustrations, creates an exciting educational adventure to share at home, nursery or school.

Moon

Moon
Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger Press

Gorgeous collage style moonlit scenes grace every spread of Britta Teckentrup’s latest ‘peek-through the pages’ book wherein we travel the globe following the moon through one complete cycle.

As it waxes, we visit a woodland, a desert landscape, a snowy puffin rookery; sea birds using the moon to migrate to warmer climes, and a tropical jungle.

The full moon shines upon a southern beach where turtles have arrived to lay their eggs.

Under the waning moon, field mice hunt for food and ‘The ocean ‘sparkles, bluey- green, / Lit up by a magical scene,‘ – an ocean whose waves are influenced by the lunar cycle.

Bears standing on a mountainside; giraffes and elephants resting in the cool nocturnal grasslands; penguins huddling together for extra warmth beneath a snowy sky …

and finally, a row of houses, complete the waning moon landscapes.

Patricia Hegarty’s lilting rhyming couplets provide a gently soporific, textual accompaniment to Teckentrup’s nocturnal homage to the natural world.