The Adventures of Moose & Mr Brown

The Adventures of Moose & Mr Brown
Paul Smith and Sam Usher
Pavilion Books

Like the book’s author, Mr Brown (a monkey) is a famous fashion designer.

He meets Moose on a plane en route from the USA to London. Moose has lost his twin brother at the airport and seeing his distress Mr Brown offers to help Moose find him.

This however isn’t straightforward for Moose finds himself assisting his new friend, offering ideas to extend his fashion range and travelling the world at the same time.

His ideas are certainly interesting – parkas for penguins, sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes, go-faster slippers for sloths and more.

But it’s during the styling of snow-shoes for a bear that Mr Brown has an idea. He enlists the ursine creature’s help and eventually at the Paris fashion show a happy reunion takes place and a dream team is born.

A fun story that celebrates creativity and highlights the importance of kindness and friendship. Illustrator Sam Usher has clearly enjoyed letting his own creative juices flow for this quirky book.

Step Inside Homes Through History / Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery

Step Inside Homes Through History
Goldie Hawk and Sarah Gibb
Nosy Crow

Most readers of this book will recognise many of the features of the contemporary house illustrated herein, and those who are as old as this reviewer will recognise some of the rather garish décor shown in the sixties home. How many though, unless they are members of the National Trust or have a special interest in the topic, will know what living in a Late Middle Ages manor house or a Tudor mansion was like?

Three double spreads each, explore seven periods in time from the mid 13th century through to the present day.
Intricately detailed laser-cut pages show us not only the particular residence outside

and in, but also the fashions, family life and furniture of the period.

You can have fun tracing the evolution of the bathroom from the medieval gardrobes – ‘a bench over a big hole which went outside the house’

to the Georgian chamber pot beneath the bed, the new Victorian indoor flushing toilet through to the present day en-suite bathrooms that many of us have. Also fun is the ‘spot the artefact’ feature where readers are asked to find a named item of furniture or small object in each house.

Full of interesting snippets of information, this well-illustrated book is worth buying for a classroom collection, or if you intend visiting a stately home or historic house, whether or not it belongs to the National Trust, Nosy Crow’s collaborators for this title.

Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery
Jake Williams
Pavilion Books

Following his Really Remarkable Reptiles, illustrator/designer Jake Williams has created another fascinating, stylishly illustrated book, this time about the naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin famous for his epic voyages of adventure on HMS Beagle and his theory of evolution ‘On the Origin of Species’.

The amazing creatures both large and small that Darwin saw during his explorations (some of which we see larger than life illustrated herein) furnished a wealth of detailed notes and drawings, observation data and fossil specimens; and readers can follow in the footsteps of the famous biologist as he travels the world for five years as the Beagle ship’s biologist sailing from England to the Cape Verde islands, from Brazil to the Galapagos and from Tahiti to Australia and finally, back home.

There’s a wealth of information about such things as the ‘cracker’ butterflies of Brazil;

how Darwin unearthed the skull of a giant ground sloth in Argentina and the steamer ducks he observed in the Falklands,

as well as maps showing the Beagle’s progress.

Recommended for all those with enquiring minds, this is a beautifully produced book that highlights the importance that careful observation makes in the furtherance of scientific discovery.

Atlas of Amazing Birds

Atlas of Amazing Birds
Matt Sewell
Pavilion Books

Well-known wildlife author/artist Matt Sewell has selected some incredible birds – more than 120 – from all over the world for his latest book.

In his introduction he talks of ‘my personal selection of the most amazing birds in the world—the most beautiful, strange, scary, speedy, and enchanting.’ He also points out that his illustrations – full colour stylised watercolours labelled with both the bird’s common and scientific names – are not to scale (although dimensions of each are provided).

Using the continents as the organisational device, he begins in Europe with 22 birds, which are listed together with a map that labels the countries and an introductory couple of paragraphs. This same format is provided for each of the other six continents.

The accompanying text certainly doesn’t talk down to readers; its conversational style is engaging, humorous on occasion and he’s chosen his words for maximum impact. For example of the European roller he says, ‘impressive flight displays as it twists and turns in the air’; and of the chicks “they can vomit a foul-smelling liquid over themselves to keep predators at bay.’

Also included is information about whether the bird is migratory.

I particularly liked this description of the Andean cock-of-the-rock, ‘The males are dressed in an effervescent, glowing orange-red with what looks like metallic silver solar panels on their backs.’

And this one really made me smile: “brahiminy starling … has slicked-back hair and a loud and bouncy persona – just like a heartthrob Bollywood movie star.’ That bird is one I recognise from frequent visits to India as are several of the other beauties from the Asia section.

It’s hard to believe but these two African birds come from the same family for as we read ‘one could be going to the ballet, followed by a fancy dinner-party, the other could be a desert sparrow.’

All in all an alluring volume for a wide age range, show-casing some of the avian wonders of the world.

Two Oldies But Goodies

The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was none of his business
Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch
Pavilion Books

It’s hard to believe, it’s 3 decades ago since this ground-breaking book was first published.

I clearly recall the day in 1989 when as a member of the local authority advisory steering group for English, our senior adviser called a meeting to talk about the national curriculum that was being foisted upon us. We gathered in a small room and without comment he walked in and read aloud this book. – well not exactly for this one, that I have now is a 30th anniversary celebratory edition.

We sat there in silence avidly listening, knowing full well why we were being treated to this: clearly it summed up what he thought about a curriculum being dumped on us from on high.

If you don’t know the story, it’s the tale of a little mole upon whose head there falls one morning as he pops up from his hole, a sausage-shaped turd. He then goes on to try and find the culprit, asking each of the animals he encounters in turn, “Did you do this on my head?”

Their excretory responses assist him in eliminating them one by one from his search

until finally, thanks to a pair of large flies, the poo perpetrator is discovered and receives his due deserts, after which mole returns to his underground residence.

With its wonderfully droll illustrations providing a ground level view, I’ve yet to share this book with a class that hasn’t dissolved into helpless giggles and now, with this new edition, long may it continue so to do.

Dave and the Tooth Fairy
Verna Wilkins and Carl Pearce
Studio Press

I remember using the 1993 Tamarind Books edition with primary classes and now some 25 years on it’s back in a newly illustrated incarnation for another generation of readers whose parents, like myself, will likely remember the first version.

Having tried unsuccessfully to dislodge his wobbly tooth, one morning at breakfast ‘Dave does ‘his biggest sneeze ever’ causing the thing to shoot out of his mouth, fly across the room and vanish.

His initial excitement quickly gives way to disappointment: no tooth means no Tooth Fairy visit and thus no money for a new kite. No matter where he looks Dave just cannot find the missing object.

When Grandpa comes to stay, Dave comes up with an idea that he hopes will solve the problem …

My original version was read to pieces so I’m unable to compare the illustrations but Carl Pearce’s have a filmic quality that will appeal to today’s avid screen watchers.

The Big Stink

The Big Stink
Lucy Freegard
Pavilion Books

Despite his beguiling appearance, cheese-obsessive Charlie Mouse is a mouse with a mission for he’ll do anything to satisfy his lust for the stinky stuff: even perhaps following his dream of breaking into the Museum of Cheese and procuring for himself one of its famous exhibits, The Stinker.

One night his avarice overwhelms him and he decides to act.

Once inside he finds that the security is excellent; so too though is his avoiding skill. Perhaps his location expertise is less so, but Charlie is forearmed with the appropriate tools to get his paws on the sculpture.

Suddenly disaster strikes in the form of a web of laser beams and the game is up. Alarms sound, security is alerted and the chase is on. Officer Rita is hot on his trail.

With her hyper-developed olfactory sense, she succeeds in tracking down the thief but by that time Charlie has seen the error of his ways. The priceless exhibit is still intact and Charlie must do his community service; but while so doing a wonderful idea strikes him …

With its twist in the tale, little ones will relish this cat-and-mouse drama; but it has plenty to offer adult readers too, not least the art and film references scattered throughout Lucy’s delicious offering.

Big Cat

Big Cat
Emma Lazell
Pavilion

The small girl narrator and her gran’s search in the back garden for Grandma’s missing specs yield not the glasses but a ginormous moggy.

It isn’t Ruby, Gertrude, Hufflystink or Twinklywhiskers so Grandma decides a closer look is necessary. She’s mightily impressed by what she sees …

but there is no way they can keep the cat and so they ask their neighbours if it belongs to any of them.

The answer is a big fat no and so Big Cat becomes a resident with Grandma and her other feline friends; but as she says herself, she really does need to locate her specs.

The newcomer proves enormous fun and extremely useful. The only trouble is, the supplies of cat food dwindle very quickly no matter how many times they’re replaced. It’s not just the cat food that is vanishing though, it’s the human’s food too.

One day the doorbell rings: who could it be? Not Gran’s replacement glasses as they’re due to be ready tomorrow.

There on the doorstep stand two strangers, one clutching some specs and asking if they happen to belong to Grandma.

They do, and to show her gratitude, she asks them in (somewhat unwisely you might be thinking) for tea.

Fortunately however, the visitors are very well-mannered and a friendship is forged between them and the narrator.

As for Grandma, she has invested in lots of spare specs but even then, there are things she misses; but that’s a whole other story…

With visual references to Judith Kerr’s classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Emma Lazell’s debut picture book is funny and somewhat surreal. Observant readers will notice the whereabouts of the missing glasses on the very first spread and will in addition, delight in other visual ‘clues’ as to what is going on throughout as the chaos increases.

A feline frolic of the first order.

The New Baby / Marigold & Daisy

The New Baby
Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
In her third book, big sister Edith – not very big but bigger than she was last year – gives readers a month-by-month account of the first year with her baby brother Albert.

He arrived, so she tells us, in a basket one January day, very tiny and making his presence felt with loud, I’m hungry ‘Waaaaaaa’ sounds followed sometime later by ‘teeny windy pops’.

As the year progresses Albert takes pleasure in watching the movement of a home-made mobile dangling above his cot; befriends the rattly Gerald Giraffe;

increases the volume of his bottom sounds and produces lots of very stinky nappies; and adds raspberry blowing and ‘slurpy sloppy’ to his repertoire.

By the summer he’s beginning to sit up and in August begins the messy process of eating baby food.

Big sis. gives him a very gentle go on the swings in September; then in October he becomes a fast crawler and in November an ever faster one especially when he’s set his sights on there’s a tower to demolish.

December sees Albert take his first tottering steps, wobbling his way around penguin style.
Then it’s time to celebrate his first birthday. Who wouldn’t love this special little brother with all his funny noises? Edith most certainly does.

I’m sure there were times when our young narrator felt jealous of the attention others were giving baby Albert but she doesn’t tell readers about it; rather Edith concentrates on the fun side of having a new sibling keeping her chronicle up-beat and accompanying it with a plethora of sound effects along the way.

As with previous Edith stories, Lisa Stickley’s collage style illustrations have a fresh child-like quality that makes them entirely appropriate to accompany her young narrator’s voice.

An enchanting book: it’s perfect for sharing with early years audiences and likely to spark off lots of my little brother/sister discussion.

That transition from only child in the family to big brother or sister can be a difficult time for young children so if you want something portraying that you might try:

Marigold & Daisy
Andrea Zuill
Sterling

Life is pretty good for Marigold until the birth of baby snail sister Daisy.

Daisy is a real pain, stealing the limelight and following her older sibling everywhere. Marigold feels left out and resentful,

particularly when Daisy ruins her favourite toy and goes off to be on her own.

However when she finds herself in a sticky situation, guess who comes to her rescue. Perhaps having a little sis. isn’t so bad after all.

Wonderfully expressive pen-and-ink and watercolour illustrations document this quirky story with a gentle humour. The plethora of speech bubbles add to the fun.