Books For Giving That Keep On Giving

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Things That Go!
Pavilion Books

This book brings together three of William Bee’s much-loved titles – Trucks, Trains and Boats and Planes, and Tractors and Farm Machines, in one bumper volume. I’ve already reviewed each of them on this blog so I won’t repeat myself; rather I’ll suggest that if you have a young child with an interest in things mechanical (or perhaps even yummy sounding breakfast cereals such as those sold down on William’s farm), then unless they already own the individual books, a copy of this totally immersive publication narrated in William Bee’s chatty style with his detailed, gently humorous illustrations, would make a smashing present.

Pippi Longstocking
Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child
Oxford Children’s Books

This large format, beautifully produced new edition of a classic has been brought up-to-date with terrific contemporary illustrations from Lauren Child and a new translation by Susan Beard.

We follow Pippi Longstocking on her amazing adventures as she moves, sans parents, into Villa Villekulla with a horse, a monkey, and a big suitcase of gold coins. Despite well-meaning adult villagers’ attempts to guide Pippi, she’d far rather be a wild spirit. She meets Tommy and Annika who very soon become her best friends. These new friends join her on her amusing escapades – leading the police a merry dance, going to school – briefly, joining the circus taking on a strong man and wowing the crowd, dancing a polka with thieves and celebrating her birthday.

Young readers and listeners will delight in their encounters with this intrepid, sometimes outrageous heroine while older ones and adults will rekindle their love of her with this bumper book that would make a super Christmas present.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll & Grahame Baker-Smith
Templar Books

It’s always interesting to see new visual interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale and although for me none can outdo those of Tenniel, assuredly Grahame Baker-Smith’s distinctive illustrations, breathe a different kind of life into Carroll’s story.

Every chapter has full page, richly coloured detailed spreads as well as several smaller pictures executed either in blues or sepia. 

One I lingered long over was the double page colour spread of the Mad Tea-Party and an amazing spread it assuredly is. There’s a large iced cake, the upper surface of which is crammed full of liquorice all sorts and what look to be those flying saucer sweets that contain sherbet. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of an egg cup containing an egg and peeking through the crack in its shell is the face of a chick. It’s details such as those that the new generation of readers who go down the rabbit hole , as well as those familiar with the story taking the descent again, will remember.

With illustrations full of mystery and magic and a superb design, this is a terrific gift book.

The Provensen Book of Fairy Tales
edited & illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen
NYR Children’s Collection

This anthology contains a dozen ‘literary’ fairytales selected by the husband and wife team to illustrate with their own whimsical touches.

Among those included are Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale, Oscar Wilde’s literary The Happy Prince, The Three Wishes told by Barbara Leonie Picard, Arthur Rackham’s classic version of Beauty and the Beast, Elinor Mordaunt’s The Prince and the Goose Girl, a reworking of Grimm’s Goose Girl, Parker Fillmore’s retelling of the Finnish story The Forest Bride, and a tale new to me, A.A. Milne’s Prince Rabbit. With an unexpected final twist, this is an amusing story of a childless king who is urged to name an heir. To that end the king arranges a series of contests for would-be heirs who meet certain criteria; one of which is a rabbit.

I found it fascinating to have such a variety of storytellers side by side in one volume, with the Provensens’ humorous, sometimes dark illustrations and I suspect this is a book that will appeal more to book collectors and older readers with a particular interest in fairy tales, than to child readers.

10 Silly Children

10 Silly Children
Jon Lander
Pavilion Books

Here’s an altogether new and huge fun take on the customary counting book by debuting picture book author/illustrator Jon Lander.

It begins with ‘1 sensible child / sitting quietly’ but not for long though for behind her back she has something hidden – something with which to make a great deal of noise. You discover what by lifting the flap.

And so it goes on with every sentence on the verso being a great whopping lie: there are for instance ‘3 sensible children drawing quietly’, or not …

‘4 sensible children / helping with the washing’ as they do …

(or rather, don’t).

Actually I told a lie earlier (as did the author) – it’s related to the 5 sensible children – good on them, but I won’t reveal why I say so.

Keep going and you’ll discover 8 children brushing their teeth

and more …

This hugely entertaining, tongue in cheek book will delight young listeners (and one hopes their adult sharers) with its inherent silliness and repeat phrases. I love his ‘Dear reader’ introduction and finale too. Jon Lander’s seemingly laid back illustrative style is just right for the children portrayed in both their sensible and exuberant modes.

I shall watch Lander with interest.

Cool Engineering

Cool Engineering
Jenny Jacoby and Jim Venn
Pavilion Books

This latest in the Cool series looks at the various branches of engineering, provides short pertinent biographies of key engineers through the centuries including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Frank Whittle, Hedy Lamar and Tim Berners-Lee, as well as the history of engineering from the invention of the wheel right up to today’s technology as used in such things as clean energy. 

There’s even a look at some future projects including innovative new building materials – whoever would have thought that encouraging mosses to grow on concrete (bio-receptive concrete) would become a good thing to do.

There are plenty of interesting experiments to try at home or school – the marshmallow tower is a fun example and can include an element of competition.

There’s so much to like about this engaging little book including the clear layout, ‘Cool facts’ boxes, quotes from the engineers featured, a timeline and alluring contents page, glossary and Jem Venn’s slightly quirky illustrations. It’s especially good in a STEM book such as this to see importance given to the sketching of ideas.

If you want children to think like engineers, then include this book in your classroom or family collection – it’s a good place to start.

While You’re Sleeping

While You’re Sleeping
Mick Jackson and John Broadley
Pavilion Books

Interestingly this collaboration brings together Booker Prize shortlisted author Mick Jackson and illustrator John Broadley, both well known for their books for adults, in a first book for a child audience; and what a superb enterprise it is.

Herein children will discover that during the time they spend sleeping, a myriad of humans are wide awake actively engaged in their world. So too are countless creatures be they owls on the hunt, foraging foxes, bats or hungry hares searching for food.

Imagine what it would be like if those cleaners hadn’t been busy on the buses and trains people take to work and school, while others clean the offices, shops and streets.

Then there are lorry drivers delivering their loads of food and other goods; post-office workers busy sorting all the mail; bakers cooking;

firefighters ready to answer emergency calls; those twenty-four hour shops and cafes; dedicated hospital staff on night duty; and ships with their crews under starry skies.

There’s a reminder that elsewhere in the world, while some children slumber, others will be in their classrooms or perhaps doing sporting activities and when their day is over, the sleepers wlll awake.

Speaking directly to young listeners/readers in a friendly tone, the narrative is a wonderful read aloud be it at bedtime or during the day. While with echoes of Eric Ravilious, John Broadley’s incredibly detailed illustrations are truly beautiful works of art (I’d love any of them as an original print on my walls.)

To open this book is like opening a gorgeous box full of jewels – each page is stunning – so too are the endpapers, the cover: the entire production in fact and to read it is like being shown around a gallery by a wise, gently spoken curator eager to open our eyes to how the world works.

Challenge Everything

Challenge Everything
Blue Sandford
Pavilion Books

Central to this book written by Blue Sandford, seventeen year old activist/author and founding member of Extinction Rebellion Youth London is the all-important message ‘You are responsible for your own actions’.

“Don’t take things for granted – challenge everything. That means challenging big business and your governments and, most of all, challenging yourself to act now and save the planet,” says her inspiring introductory rallying cry.

She speaks of the disillusionment of young people with world leaders, angry at the seemingly insatiable greed of big businesses with their clever words that are largely forcing the world’s downward spiral. Not only the disillusionment of young people though, for during the pandemic many of us adults have taken stock, questioned our almost compulsive consumption and realised that we don’t for example, need to buy new clothes nearly every week. Nor will we.

‘When you start to really notice what you’re consuming, you’ll be able to tell what you need, what you’ll actually wear, and whether you really need anything new’ says the author as she shows her intention to empower readers to change their mind-sets and challenge, challenge, challenge.

Covering pretty much everything from the destructive effects of flying, the impact on the planet of what we choose to eat/drank,  to the importance of re-wilding and reconnecting with nature, Blue’s practical, persuasive book concludes thus: ‘Do everything you can for the survival of the planet. The future is in your hands. You can make a difference. Fight. Challenge everything.’

The potency of those words will one hopes, galvanise readers to think for themselves and to take action.

The Blue Giant

The Blue Giant
Katie Cottle
Pavilion Books

Picture book messages about helping to save the environment come in all shapes and forms.

In Katie Cottle’s second eco-story the messenger takes the form of an enormous wave that suddenly rises up out of the sea just as Meera and her mother are settling down for a relaxing day on the beach.

This blue giant urgently wants to communicate with them and its message is a vital one asking for their help.
Donning their diving suits and following in their small boat, mother and daughter pursue the wave and discover that the ocean is awash with rubbish of all kinds and that many sea creatures are in great danger.

After a day of hard work a great deal remains to be done to clear up the pollution – way too much for just two people.

The following morning Meera is back on the beach and the next, but now she has enlisted the help of some of her friends.

They in turn enlist some of theirs and so it continues …

The narrative concludes with a list of half a dozen suggested ways in which we can all help by reducing our consumption of single-use plastics.

Katie’s powerful images convey the plastic pollution problem in a manner that young children will easily relate to, particularly those of the sea creatures caught up in the debris. Stories such as this one are a great way to galvanise youngsters into action.

That Dog!

That Dog!
Emma Lazell
Pavilion Books

Author/illustrator Emma Lazell’s second picture book features Penny who has a particular penchant for purloining pooches, and her new accomplice Pat.

Penny has set her sights on ‘new dog in town’, a multi-talented dog and spotty all over; but it’s down to Pat to procure the creature.

It’s evident from the outset that the highly desirable, dappled dog is a whole lot more savvy than his would-be dog-nappers,

not least Penny who only ever gives Pat partial information about that which she desires.

As he sets out on his first mission. ‘Spotty all over’ is the description she gives her eager to please helper.

He’s surely spoilt for choice when he reaches his destination but which one will he take? Here’s a clue – it’s ‘a bit wiggly and a bit squiggly’.

Has he bitten off more than he can chew however, for the hound (something of a spare-time detective) is watching his every move

as we see in Emma’s caninely comical art when the dog-napper returns on several occasions, each time seizing the wrong animal until …

Altogether this is most definitely, a delightfully dotty and diverting tale.

Build A Castle

Build a Castle
Paul Farrell
Pavilion Books

Young children are continuously sensing, relating, observing, investigating, thinking and communicating. In so doing they research and create theories about how and why the world and things in it, work. We adults – teachers, parents, playworkers and others – have a unique opportunity to support this through our work and our play, through the arts and our relationships with children.

One such opportunity is presented in this Build a Castle kit that Samuel (age 4) was enormously excited to investigate.
The kit comprises 64 cleverly designed, slot-together building cards (105 x 69mm) – turrets, arrow-slit windows, portcullises, roofs, walls, flags and other things which can be assembled both upwards and outwards, to create a medieval wonder, or many.
Samuel spent a couple of hours completely absorbed, finding out how to slot the pieces together and working on ways to construct.

Having unpacked the pieces he unfolded the ‘Basic Building guide’ booklet and perused it, trying to match the various different cards with the design illustrated. He then began building, trying things out, and altering his design until he’d both used all the pieces and was satisfied with his creation.

His concentration never wavered

and having partly completed his castle he went and got two wooden figures from his toy box and added those, playing and storying with them inside the various rooms as he built.

What a cool way in which to play and learn. I thoroughly recommend Build a Castle for individuals, families, foundation stage settings and schools.

Little Owl’s Bedtime / Put Your Botty on the Potty!

Here are two fun books for your toddler bookshelves:

Little Owl’s Bedtime
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

It’s lovely to see Little Owl starring in another episode. It’s ‘late o’clock’ and bedtime. Mummy Owl has shared with him a bedtime story and now it’s shut eye time. However, like many little ones, this young owl starts delaying tactics. First he requests another story and his mummy agrees on condition that it will be the last.

Story duly read and ‘sweet dreams’ wished, Little Owl is still finding reasons why he cannot go to sleep.

Patient Mummy Owl explains the reasons why dark is necessary,

even going to the trouble of providing a very tiny night lamp.

Nothing doing: the lumpy pillow persists and then cuddly, ‘Hedge’ has gone missing. Happily though she’s found pretty soon and now surely sleep will come. Not it seems quite yet though: how long before Mummy Owl’s patience is tested to its limit, one wonders.

Still the complaints come: too hot, hungry and now Little Owl needs a wee.

Then he’s excited about what tomorrow has in store. If he doesn’t drop off soon, it will be tomorrow anyway; but his Mummy ‘s promise looks as though it might finally do the trick …
Sweet dreams Little Owl, sweet dreams Hedge, sweet dreams Baby Owl and happy bath-time Mummy owl – you’ve certainly earned it.

What a gorgeous way to end the day if you have a little one; make sure you lay down the ground rules first though, just in case s/he tries the Little Owl tactics.

Debi’s warm text and Alison’s equally warm illustrations work in perfect harmony: who wouldn’t want to snuggle down after sharing this one?

Put Your Botty on the Potty!
Sam Lloyd
Pavilion Books

Courtesy of Little Moo, here’s a fun look at potty training, monster style.

When we meet Moo, she’s nappy clad and far from happy so to be, partly one suspects because there’s new baby sister in the Monster family wearing, guess what – a nappy. Time for Moo to grow up, shed the nappy and bare the botty.

Needless to say, Mummy instructs Moo to call a halt on the monster messes that ensue. It appears though that Mummy has a clever plan, for next morning a gift-wrapped surprise arrives at the door.

Moo’s bot is a perfect fit for a sit and that’s exactly what he does … for a protracted period until eventually … (success!)

There’s more to learn though as Mummy monster talks of botty wiping, then demonstrates hand washing and drying. The monsters then head into town for some ‘grown-up’ pants purchasing; and finally smartypants Moo is ready for a celebration.

With its bold, zany art, jaunty rhyming text and flaps to explore, little ones and their adults can enjoy some fun times with the former doing some important learning.

The Last Tree

The Last Tree
Emily Haworth-Booth
Pavilion Books

Trees are one of our planet’s greatest assets in the fight against climate change, so why oh why are the grownups in The Last Tree so careless in their use of this precious resource?

We first meet them when they’re searching for a suitable place to live and they spy their first tree; it’s part of a forest. They enjoy the summer living among the trees and sleeping outdoors.

Come winter they start cutting down a few branches for firewood but this leaves space for the rain to come through and extinguish their fire.

With each new season the loss of the trees creates further problems provoking yet more trees to be lost culminating with the construction of …

Now only one spindly specimen remains.

Inevitably with no view except their wall, the villagers become inward, self-obsessed and thoroughly disenchanted. Instead of a happy community they distrust one another and the adults in every family covet that single remaining tree sending their children to harvest it.

With axes in hand the children creep beyond the wall but in the joy of seeing one another they quickly forget their purpose. Rather than cutting down that tree they care for it, watching it thrive and grow, bringing instead planks to their parents who use them for barricading themselves in their homes.

Even so the wind comes blowing down the fences and out rush the adults to discover …

In the bright daylight they recall the good times and understand their foolishness.
Time to make a fresh start: and so it is that the last tree becomes the first of a brand new forest.

A timely parable of the destruction of the natural world and its effect on our planet’s climate, made all the more effective by Emily’s hugely potent graphics rendered in shades of green and grey.

As in our ‘extinction rebellion’ times, here too it’s children who have the imagination to become the agents of change.

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

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

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.

Transport, Words and Numbers

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trains and Boats and Planes
William Bee
Pavilion Books

William Bee showcases an amazing array of vehicles from early steam engines to high-speed super-sleek electric trains,

biplanes, to vertical take-off jump jets,

submarines to speed boats. There’s even a space rocket.
Every brightly coloured spread offers plenty to explore. There’s the featured vehicle of course but also a plethora of signs, logos (Elephant brand reigns supreme), and traffic cones getting up to all sorts of things and seemingly having a great time. William’s dog, Sparky, is there for the ride and so too is a tiny white rabbit.
All of that is accompanied by an interesting, on-going narrative from Bee himself that includes some occasional tongue-twisting alliteration; and the final spread is given over to some playful ‘Elephant’ brand advertising.
Totally immersive and certain to delight all mechanically minded young children and a fair few adults too, I suspect.

Big Words for Little Geniuses
Susan & James Patterson and Hsinping Pan
Penguin Random House Young Arrow

For sure there are lots – 52 in all – delicious words in this zany compilation for youngsters to get their tongues around; 26 illustrated – one for each letter of the alphabet – and the others in a kind of addendum.

I have issues with the pronunciation guide in a couple of places though, one being Magnanimous (mag-NA-nih-mus) which I suspect is the American way of saying the word; ditto Onomatopoeia (AH-noh-ma-toe-PEE-ya).
Nevertheless, I’m all for children expanding their vocabularies and this fun picture book certainly should, in the right hands, help them do just that.
A number of primary schools I know of (and I’m sure it’s quite common), have a ‘word of the day’ or a ‘word of the week’ – here’s a rich source to mine.

And, very young children really do love exciting-sounding words, repeating them for the sheer enjoyment of hearing them spoken aloud. Add to that Hsinping Pan’s bold, bright visuals and you have an alphabet book unlike any other.

I Know Numbers
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

This is an exploration of numbers and the various roles they play in everyday life. ‘Numbers are everywhere’ we’re told at the outset and we’re then show various examples from clocks and calendars, thermometers and weighing scales. These still hold true although this is a re-issue of a book first published in Japan in 1985. The next spread though shows out-dated technology

although it’s the only one and it offers an interesting talking point when sharing the book.
The upbeat text and bold, bright images certainly do put the case for the importance of numbers,

and their multi-functional nature, in an appealing way for those just getting to grips with number learning / number recognition skills.

My New Room / Time for a Nap

My New Room
Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
Edith, the young girl narrator shares with readers the process of moving into a new room and making it her own. We share too, the comments of other inhabitants of the room starting with Edith’s toy soldier guard, Gary.

As head of moving and room safety, I have been keeping everyone in check to ensure a smooth and safe move, “ he announces.
Next to speak is dog, Albert, who deems the place “usually OK smelly wise”on account of Edith’s almost daily baths. Other toys include the softly spoken, Osbert T. Octopus, Timothy Sloth and Reginald Rabbit, occupants of the spare bed (unless Grandma comes for a sleep-over) and a host of others. Those perching atop the wardrobe have a wonderful view of the garden – perfect for “plane spotting” says Susan hippo, whereas Breton Mouse has found the perfect trampolining spot …

while poor Sebastian Snake has the chilliest spot of all and is thinking of applying “for a promotion.” It looks as though they might all settle happily in their new abode; it looks too as though they’ve been pretty busy creating something special for Edith.

I absolutely loved Lisa Stickley’s Handstand debut; this is even better I think. The text, presented as in a child’s writing book, is deliciously witty and the patterned illustrations adorable. I’d certainly recommend putting this in pride of place on Edith’s bookshelf along side Gary Guardsman, as well as adding it to a family, nursery or early years classroom collection.

Time for a Nap
Phillis Gershator and David Walker
Through a gentle rhyming text and delightful, soft-focus pencil and acrylic scenes of a little rabbit and parent, human toddlers can share in their week. Starting with Monday, shopping day,

Gershator and Walker take us through their weekday activities, shopping, playing, a visit to the library for storytime (hooray!), clothes washing and gardening and on Saturday and Sunday, relaxing together.
A crucial part of every one of those days is nap time – not always readily embarked on by little rabbit.

Short and sweet, and ideal for participatory reading with littles: try reading it with a nursery group and then leaving the book with appropriate props or small world toys for children to interact with.

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Trucks and Rock Pools

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trucks
William Bee
Pavilion Books
This is truly a vehicular delight and who better to introduce it than Bee himself. First he shows off the fuel tanker which, we’re told, holds sufficient fuel to fill 2500 motorbikes, or if you prefer, 650 cars or 40 of the fanatic’s largest trucks. It’s fuel is pretty indispensable unless you happen to have one of these beauties: watch out for soot.

Mr Bee however, has a truck to take care of that eventuality too – his amphibious one.
As construction is a frequent activity at the William Bee’s Garage, there are all kinds of trucks to help with the various building-related tasks; there’s the one that carries supplies, a cement mixer, a café truck – building makes one hungry after all. William also has a rescue truck, which here, has been called out to aid a snow-scooper.

Racing cars, and a truck to carry them complete with spare wheels, tool boxes and more, are also kept at the garage, as is William’s amazing jet-powered truck; fire engines and more. Mr Bee though is off to the seaside in yet another of his amazing vehicles and there he goes … leaving readers with a few final spreads of truck facts and some adverts for all his trucks’ needs.
What more could a truck-crazy pre-schooler want that these wonderfully bright, detailed illustrations (eye candy for truck fanatics) and William Bee’s running commentary on same.

Rock Pool Secrets
Narelle Oliver
Walker Books
As a child on summer holidays in Devon, Cornwall or further afield in the Mediterranean, apart from swimming, my favourite activity was poking around in rock pools accompanied often by my sister and Dad. I’d catch various things in my net, pop them into a bucket, observe and attempt to identify them; and then put them back into the water. This ‘lift-the-flap’ book takes me right back to those days with a close look at many of the creatures and plants I most certainly found: sea anemones with their sticky tentacles – endlessly fascinating; hermit crabs residing in empty mollusc shells, other crustacea – crab species, shrimps shooting rocket-like into the tangled seaweed; and various fish including gobies.

Most starfish I found were dried up on the seashore; herein though we see one cleverly camouflaged on the surface of a rock.
Each creature is given a double spread and almost all have a large, appropriately shaped flap that open to reveal further details about the particular animal. The final spread with an invitation to discover its secrets, opens up on both sides revealing an entire rock pool.
With awe-inspiring lino print illustrations, a fairly short narrative text and a pictorial glossary at the back giving extra information, this is perfect for preschool children and KS1 audiences.

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An Animal ABC


An Animal ABC
Alice Pattullo
Pavilion Books
Print-maker and illustrator Alice Pattullo’s animal screen prints are used as the basis of an awesome ABC book. This is so much more than a mere alphabet book though. We’re introduced to a veritable treasure trove of creatures large and small but these are not for the most part the normal go-to animals one finds in a child’s alphabet.


Each creature is given a double spread with a multi-layered screen print picture of the animal on the right hand side named above in capitals, with (as a rule) a lower case Latin name beneath the illustration.
For her menagerie, rather than the strictly naturalistic colours one would expect for each animal, Pattullo has used hues of the earth, sea and sky to build up her images.
The left hand page has the initial letter as a capital with two lines below which form part of a rhyming couplet: ‘S/ is for sloth/ who smiles while asleep 


followed by: T/ is for turtle/ who swims waters deep.’ …


Below the rhyme in smaller print are two or three lines of information about the featured animal. Clearly this will be more of interest to adults or older siblings sharing the book with a young child.
There’s a final treat at the end in the form of twenty six vignettes – one per animal – and each is a small detail taken from the whole image, to be matched with the full sized picture earlier in the book: excellent for developing visual literacy.
Altogether a classy book to look at, discuss and linger over.

Sleeping Beauty


Sleeping Beauty: A mid-century fairy tale
David Roberts and Lynn Roberts-Maloney
Pavilion Books
The super-talented brother and sister team, David Roberts (illustrator) and Lynn Roberts-Maloney have created another in their classy series of classic fairy tales, setting it in the 1950s initially, and then one thousand years in the future.
Now I’m hugely enthusiastic about re-workings/reinventions of fairy tales and traditional tales and had high expectations of this one – expectations that were more than met.
We first see Annabel in the 1950s as a science fiction loving young girl with a fascination about the future, living with her two aunts Flora and Rosalind, completely oblivious to the curse that had been placed upon her during her first birthday celebrations by a jealous and malicious witch, Morwenna.


The curse – that she will be pricked by a needle and die before her sixteenth birthday – is kept at bay by her aunts with the death sentence commuted to a thousand year sleep.
We then return to the time leading up to the all-important birthday when a mysterious visitor leaves a present for Annabel on the doorstep: a present that results in a pricked finger as foretold by Morwenna,


who indeed has delivered the gift, whereupon the young girl falls into a deep sleep.
Both Rosalind and Flora take transformative action; the former becoming an ever-growing rose bush …


which forms a protective shield around the house; the latter (having written down her ward’s story and calling it Sleeping Beauty) becomes an ever-shining light that guards Annabel while she sleeps.
Fast forward one thousand years to another young girl, Zoe, with an interest in all things past and in particular the history of the giant rose tree. Researching in the library (hooray they still exist!) she comes upon a copy of Sleeping Beauty …


and discovers its publication date – exactly 1000 years ago to the very day.
Can she finally break that dark spell and release the Sleeping Beauty?
Elegant design and superbly detailed illustrations grace every page of this wonderful book and the story itself is a brilliantly clever fusion of old and new.
A splendid gift to give on a birthday, at Christmas or indeed any time of the year: it’s a book to return to again and again.



Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
If you’ve spent any time in a primary school during the summer term you’ll know that one of the crazes that unfailingly comes around every year is handstands. During playtimes, seemingly half a school population is endeavouring to perfect the art of handstanding. Now we have a storybook character doing just that; she’s the narrator of this quirky picture book and her name is Edith. It’s at home or in the park, not school where she’s honing her inversion skills though; watched – or more accurately, interrupted – by various creatures – a worm, a bee, a bird in flight, a spider …


none of which is happy about what she’s doing. Her “giant” hand was too close to the worm’s favourite ‘popping-up’ spot; her ear tricked the bee into thinking it was a flower; the bird, well he’s actually happier than the others as Edith provided useful ‘target practice’ for his flying poops. And the spider is shocked having ended up in her shorts when doing his ‘daily descent’.
Over the course of a week she goes from 1 second to 6 of ‘upsidedown-ness’ – the six being with a bit of support from Dad, who naturally has better things to do most of the time. By Sunday, Edith appears to have got this whole handstanding thing pretty much licked – in more ways than one …


I love the humour inherent in this tale of persistence and determination: Edith is a real cool cookie. I love too her various patterned outfits and the way, Lisa Stickley has incorporated pattern into other elements of her funky artwork; and there’s a bit of counting too. A debut picture book delivered with panache.

Yokki and the Parno Gry / Cool Mythology


Yokki and the Parno Gry
Richard O’Neill, Katharine Quarmby and Marieke Nelissen
Child’s Play
Yokki’s family are Travellers who live under canvas and make their money by selling – it might be horses or things that they make when there’s no other work – things like carved wooden spoons or lovely paper flowers. At other times of the year, they might be found mending pots and pans, sharpening tools or picking fruit and vegetables.


Their evenings are spent around the camp fire when stories are told; and young Yokki is a particularly good story teller whose tales are a re-mix of those he’s already heard and things he adds of his own.
One year however, with work hard to come by the family is really down on their luck and Yokki’s father is worried about how they’ll cope with the coming winter. Phuri Dai (Grandma) suggests a place where they can set up camp and when they’ve done so, Yokki decides a story is just the thing to raise their spirits.


Look at the image in the centre …

It’s a mythical tale of a powerful white flying horse – a Parno Gry – that would take him to places where life would be everything they could wish.
Can that wonderful horse fly in and save Yoki’s family at their darkest time? That is the big question and one you will have to get yourself a copy of this wonderful book to answer.
Everything about this book is exciting: most importantly that the story is a real testament to the power of children’s imaginations and the valuing of same; Marieke Nelissen’s illustrations are delightfully dream-like in places, the different viewpoints and perspectives used …


add visual interest at every turn of the page and further enhance the telling.


Cool Mythology
Malcolm Croft
Pavilion Books
Prolific author Croft turns his attention to a subject popular with primary age readers, as well as a topic much studied in schools. In fact I became very interested in the whole area when studying at London University in the 80s and have continued to find the whole vast topic endlessly fascinating ever since. This book is, as it says “Filled with fantastic facts’ and encompasses the main world mythologies, Sumerian and Inca and Nubian, all of which and more are mentioned on a spread entitled Map of World Mythology.
Thereafter, logically, is a look at creation myths, the commonest forms of myths and these are broken down into five general classifications as shown here …


Examples of these are then explored in four spreads with the Greek Gaia, various sun-related myths, some fascinating African ideas and the Rainbow Serpent from the Aboriginal Dreamtime.


‘Myths and legends are a vital part of … what it means to be human’ we’re told and the author then goes on to look at the seven basic plots used in myths. There’s also an exploration of places such as Atlantis, as well as the more recent Bermuda Triangle; and the afterlife with a look at ancient Egypt; animals, monsters and part human, part animal beings, also have a place herein.
Indeed it’s amazing just how much is packed into this little book on a topic that has much to say to us, and societies the world over today. If you know a child who wants a quick but absorbing introduction to a vast subject, this is a very good starting point. It’s fun, attractively laid out and very readable.

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How to be a Cowboy


DSCN6070 (800x600)How to be a Cowboy
Alice V.Lickens
Pavilion Books
Calling all would-be cowboys, (and those who like quirky books) this is for you. It contains all kinds of useful info. – all the essentials that is – relating to cowboy living and a whole lot more. There are maps – one of the cowboy inhabited states in the US, another of cattle trails and a third a star map to guide those cowboys safely home; a spread of cowboy symbols, another to help you choose a name for your range, an ‘On the Ranch’ spread, a meeting with Mustangs, another with Texas Longhorns, some cowboy speak, information about specific jobs, and two spreads about dressing your extremities:

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And these beauties …

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‘Home on the Range’ gives facts about an 1886 chuck wagon that belonged to famous rancher, Charles Goodnight;

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open out the folds to reveal four recipes you may or may not want to test, depending on your taste: ‘GUNSLINGER BEANS’, ‘SON OF A GUN STEW’. ‘SOCK COFFEE’(seriously), and ‘ROUNDUP STEW’.
If all this isn’t sufficient for your budding broncos, there is in addition a pop-out hairy-legged cowboy character to bring into being with this fab gear.

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Love those endpapers too. YEEEHAAW! lads and lassies.
I know few picture books about cowboys other than Sue Heap’s delightful Cowboy Baby, which comes to mind instantly, so this one is doubly welcome.

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Manya Stojic
Pavilion Books
I’m delighted to see this in print again: it was (along with Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain) a big favourite with a reception class I was teaching at the time it was first published and became the inspiration for a huge wall display.
It was hot. Everything was hot and dry.’ Thus begins this scorcher of a book – no actually it begins on the front cover with baboon’s arm waving, Thereafter, Porcupine sniffs the air and smells the coming rain. He then passes the good news on to the zebras – they see it …

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and transmit the news to the baboons: they hear it and go to tell the rhino. Down comes the first raindrop – splash! And rhino feels it.

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Lion, last to receive the news has a truly multi-sensory experience: he smells it; he sees it; he hears it; he feels and … he tastes it. Ahhh bliss! A torrent ensues filling every water hole, cleansing and refreshing the land and, when it eventually ceases, the animals are there to enjoy the bounties it leaves behind: big shady green leaves, cool soft squelchy mud to lie in; fresh juicy fruits to eat;

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cool refreshing water to drink in the waterhole and the promise of further rain to come…
Everything about this uplifting book is admirable: the scene setting cover; the way tension mounts towards the dramatic climactic downpour then eases down as the animals relish what it leaves in its wake; the seamless integration of pictures and words; the way the carefully chosen words (a delight to read aloud) and painterly illustrations (they really transport you to the African savannah setting) play an equal part. Then there’s the repetition, the print presentation; the circularity of the whole thing …
This was a great debut picture book for Manya Stojic: I hope we see more of her solo books (re)published here in the UK.

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Skimbleshanks/Patch’s Grand Dog Show

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Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat
T.S.Eliot and Arthur Robins
Faber & Faber Children’s Books
It’s 11.39, time for the Night Mail train to depart; so it’s all aboard and off we go! Not quite: where is Skimbleshanks?

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The train can’t start without him.
In the nick of time, he appears, the ‘All Clear!’ is given and the train leaves bound for the ‘northern part of the Northern Hemisphere.’ And there’s no doubt about who’s in charge.: ‘From the driver and the guards to the / bagmen playing cards/ He will supervise them all, more or less.’

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Up and down the corridor he paces, patrolling and keeping watch for any bad behaviour on the part of the passengers …

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Those sleeping berths must be kept just spotless with all the amenities in full working order …

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And there are people to meet and greet while all the passengers are fast asleep: that too is Skimble’s job as is summoning the police (that’s at Dumfries)

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or helping passengers to descend (at Gallowgate). All this and more takes place if you join another feline star in Arthur Robins’ third picture book interpretation of verses from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
Once again, Robins’ cartoon style visuals are full of deliciously dotty details. No matter if you’re a cat lover (I’m not), a poetry lover (that’s me) or neither, you’ll still find plenty to amuse herein. Share it, shout it or simply enjoy it alone or with others, young or not so young.

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Patch’s Grand Dog Show
Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne
Pavilion Books
Loner and slightly strange-looking dog, Patch is passing his time as usual sitting in the park when he hears from the other side of same, a whole lot of woofing, yapping and barking. On investigating he discovers …

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His inquiry, “Can anyone enter?” is met with derision from the other dogs so a downcast Patch goes off to hide himself. But then he has an idea: an idea involving his ball and a special trick. Even then though, the sight of all those seemingly perfect pampered pooches adopting all manner of prize-seeking poses and performing all kinds of clever moves to impress the judges – here are a couple of the former …

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his courage fails him. In the face of such finery, poor Patch feels even more inferior and lonely until he hears an announcement: “AND The Dog The Judge Would Most Like to Take Home IS …
No prizes for guessing which one that is.

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I’m no dog lover, far from it (having been mauled by an Alsatian as a child), but these knitted creatures are delightful. What’s more there are instructions on how to knit a Patch at the back of the book. Do look closely at each illustration and you’ll see how cleverly textured each one is. The artwork itself is likely to be an inspiration for children to create their own woolly scenes.

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