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.

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors and Farm Machines

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors and Farm Machines
William Bee
Pavilion Books

R-r-r-r-r-r-rrrrrrrr! Hope you’ve got your wellies on ‘cos we’re going down on the farm and that’s the sound coming from William Bee’s tractor barn.
Therein he keeps all kinds of awesome specialist machines and he and his traffic cone friends can’t wait to show them off and tell us something about the jobs they do.

Tractors come in different shapes depending on the tasks they perform: some are very thin so they can work in confined spaces.

Others are enormously wide; you need those if you have a lot of land; and yet others are super-long and fantastic for getting through mega-thick mud.
These super clever machines do lots of pulling and pushing, lifting …


scooping, and carrying.
Depending on the type of wheels they have, they’re able to go over pretty much any kind of terrain – hard and bumpy or wet and soggy.
Farming was a lot harder work before tractors were invented: ploughing and pulling heavy loads was done by large horses or even cows.
Then came steam tractors like this one powered by coal …

There’s one machine on William’s farm not powered by an engine at all; can you guess what that might be?
If you want to find out, and to know about the delicious-sounding breakfast cereals William sells, then you’ll need to get hold of this smashing book to add to your shelves alongside his other two’ Wonderful World of … ‘ titles.
Unfortunately both mine have long gone – seized by eager children and I suspect this one will soon go the same way.

Just Like Mummy / Superhero Mum

Just Like Mummy
Lucy Freegard
Pavilion Books

Following on from last year’s Just Like Daddy, Lucy Freegard turns her attention to mums, especially the one featured here.

The young narrator introduces his/her special super-talented mum– full of fun, both creative and practical, ready to offer some words of wisdom at just the right time and provider of cuddles whenever they’re needed. Who wouldn’t want to have a mother like that, and perhaps, to have those qualities when they grow up? Certainly that is what the little leopard here is aiming for. (We don’t know the gender so the story works well for all.)

I suspect any youngster would wish for a mother who spends so much time with her child be that making music, gardening, exploring or whatever, and the cub really does appreciate this togetherness.

It’s important to acknowledge that things don’t always go exactly how we’d like them to; there are sad times, challenging times and inevitably, times when we make mistakes, and so it is here.

Lucy Freegard’s expressive illustrations do a great job of encompassing both the highs and lows of everyday life in a book that is perfect for sharing and discussing with pre-schoolers, and especially, it’s a lovely story for giving to a special mum on Mother’s Day.

Superhero Mum
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow

We had Superhero Dad and now Knapman and Berger even things up with a companion title about mums.

The narrative is an upbeat rhyming celebration of all the things that make them so amazing. Mums, and in particular this little girl narrator’s mum, is on the go from morning till night, whizzing around, often multi-tasking.

Whether it’s making sure we catch the bus to school,

inventing and participating in energetic playground games, administering first aid,

joining in with bath time fun, seeking out a favourite lost toy, or sharing a bedtime story, she always delivers.

In short, she’s an inspiration to every would-be super hero girl (or boy come to that.)

It takes someone special to do all these things with a smile on her face and that’s how Joe Berger’s comic book coloured, action-packed scenes portray her in every one of these seemingly ordinary, everyday activities that could be easily taken for granted.

I’ve signed the charter  

Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures / Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures

Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures
Matt Sewell
Pavilion Books

Of the 1,000 dinosaur species that have already been identified, (so we’re told in the introduction) some fifty grace the pages of this beautifully illustrated book by wildlife author and artist Matt Sewell.
In a note about his illustrations Sewell reminds readers that rather than imagining them as big lizards with muddy-brown or dull green scales, palaeontologists now think that many dinosaurs may have been colourful creatures, some even feathered,. This is reflected in his illustrations herein. Did you know for instance that Yutyrannus, a relation of Tyrannosaurus rex, discovered in 2012 had a complete covering of feathers?

Accompanying each one is a paragraph or two of factual information into which the author injects not only occasional surprises but gentle humour too.
I was fascinated to learn that the ‘teenage’ Pachycephalosaurus, termed ‘Stygimoloch’ aka ‘the horned devil from the river of death’ lost its horns in adulthood.

Splendid to look at – I love the large images set against a plain white background – and likely to have a wide age appeal.

Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures
Emily Hawkins and Lucy Letherland
Wide Eyed Editions

This enormous volume – a veritable prehistoric journey of discovery – comes from the team behind Atlas of Adventures.
Herein, through a series of maps

and large colourful dino-inhabited scenes, readers are taken, one continent after another, on a world tour of the various different land regions over different eras, up to the late Cretaceous period when the creatures died out. This was due, it’s thought, to a massive meteorite colliding with Earth resulting in mass extinction that effectively ‘wiped out most of life on Earth.’
Thirty-one dinosaurs (or prehistoric reptiles) are featured (frequently hunter and hunted) but many others are also named and given brief descriptions in the richly coloured scenes within which they’re shown.

Various aspects of dinosaur life, including birth, learning to fly (that’s baby Pteranodons – ‘cousins of the dinosaurs’), to being killed by predators are included and each spread, in addition to the large descriptive paragraph, and the mini info-bank for each creature featured, is littered with relevant, and often memorable, facts. What child is likely to forget that ‘the ‘massive droppings of T-Rex were as long as a human arm and weighed the same as a 6-month-old baby’?
I’m less keen though on some of the visual humour. For instance the Leaellynasaurus (Australian) sporting a striped scarf and bobble hat; or the Oviraptors in what is now Mongolia, wielding what looks like a butterfly net, while perhaps appealing to dinosaur-mad children, to me seemed a tad too frivolous.
Nonetheless, this is a bumper feast of dino-info. and a novel way of presenting same. It’s likely to appeal widely: I certainly learned a fair bit from it.