It’s Your World Now!

It’s Your World Now!
Barry Falls
Pavilion Children’s Books

This upbeat rhyming picture book offers three lessons to young ones, lessons about the world, what it has to offer, the disappointments that sometimes befall us all, and how to live life to the full. Barry Falls’ rhythmic narrative calls to mind the Seuss manner of delivery in The Cat in the Hat.

The first lesson talks of a wealth of delights – singing birds, brightly coloured butterflies … autumn leaves / and splashy puddles. / Chocolate cake and ice-cream sundaes, / never-ending-summer-fun-days.’ Now who wouldn’t want those?

But more important is the assurance to the small child that ‘your future’s bright’ (not so bright with BREXIT looming, I fear) and that she and others like her ‘ … can choose whate’er they want to be / and be that thing, quite splendidly …’ Not of course, without hard work and application though; and the sky’s the limit – literally. I love the fact that pushing boundaries and rule breaking are acknowledged as lesson one draws to a close.

Life though isn’t always peaches and cream as the second lesson says and youngsters must be aware of the likelihood that along the way, things will go wrong, others will win or do better; some might seek to disenchant you or thwart your enthusiasm and determination, try to push you around or block your goals.

But each must follow his/her own path and purpose: that way lies fulfilment and ultimate success.

The final and most important lesson is a love-fuelled sending forth into the future, safe in the assurance that in this magical world of the next generation, these particular children are cherished no matter what.

Fascinatingly detailed and vibrantly illustrated (other than in lesson 2 – which has some rather menacing images) this is a wonderful celebration of the worth and potential of every child.

Odd Science: Incredible Creatures

Odd Science: Incredible Creatures
James Olstein
Pavilion Children’s Books

Science is cool, it’s exciting, and creatures are endlessly fascinating, as this book demonstrates. It’s full of wacky and funky facts on beasties large and small from minute bugs to massive creatures of the deep, presented in an accessible manner by James Olstein.

So prepare to be fascinated by the likes of the praying mantis, which can turn its head around by 180 degrees to see what’s happening behind – particularly useful should they want to be teachers –

or the fact that in Tokyo, pigeons have been trained by scientists to distinguish between the works of Monet and Picasso; now why would they want to do that?

You might wish to know the answer to the time old ‘chicken or egg, which came first?’ question: the answer from some British scientists is revealed herein.

I was fascinated to discover that although sloths hang around in trees most of the time, they come down once a week for a poo; also, that yellow-billed oxpeckers roost on giraffes when they go to sleep at night often settling in the giraffe’s ‘armpit’.

Did you know that Egyptian plovers clean crocodiles’ teeth in exchange for some extra food? Risky!

The information is presented in sections such as dinosaurs, whales, octopods, cats, stripes, tongues, defences and so on.

Olstein’s retro-style, quirky pictures bring further funkiness to his array of facts.

This is ideal for dipping in and out of, though readers who find it hard to become engrossed in a book might just find themselves so doing in Incredible Creatures.

Arty! The First Artist in Space

Arty! The First Artist in Space
William Bee
Pavilion Children’s Books

I fell for Arty Farty when I met him in his acrobatic efforts to become The Greatest Artist in the World so was over the moon to receive his new space adventure to review.

Can you believe that our amphibious artist friend is set to become the world’s very first artist in space for you see, NASA – I’m surmising that’s who they are -have tried unsuccessfully, year after year, to recruit a famous artist to go into space.

Thus far all they’ve received is a series of negative responses,(we’re shown a priceless gallery of naysayers)  so it’s really no surprise to learn that they send a bunch of scientists to Paris with an invitation to zoom off in a rocket bound for the depths of the cosmos. You won’t be surprised either if you’ve previously encountered his agent, Mr Grimaldi, that it’s he who consents to this vacation in the void, (it’s a great PR stunt) but Arty who must make the voyage.

First though, comes a rather rigorous training regime,

after which inevitably, our Arty Farty friend ends up flat on his back, and no, it’s not in surprise at having passed the tests with flying colours, although he has.

Thereafter the entire stomach swirling set of tests is repeated with Arty clad in his splendid art-supply stocked spacesuit. Then following one more lie down, off he shoots into space in a rocket.

Emulating Buzz Aldrin, his first stop is the Moon, which is really the most uninspiring place for a creative creature like Arty to land up on. What is there to paint? NADA, thinks the new arrival; but then comes a lunar moment DING! Out comes the painting gear and it’s project space transformation.

Are the space scientists happy on Arty’s return – what do you think? Maybe not but somebody else is …

Totally pricelessly hilarious from start to finish, this book is a blast; it’s absolutely guaranteed to make you giggle till your guts hurt as you follow one frog where no artist has gone before but where, courtesy of William Bee, readers will surely go – over and over.

The Green Giant

The Green Giant
Katie Cottle
Pavilion Children’s Books

The natural world and our part in conserving it has never been more in the media than now with children marching for the environment and against climate change; in tandem there’s been a burgeoning of conservation/environment non-fiction books recently. Less so of fictional ones, so it’s especially good to see Katie Cottle’s debut picture book.

Bea is a little girl who goes to visit her garden-loving Grandad in the country; Bea when we first meet her, seems wedded to her tablet while her Dalmatian, Iris likes nothing better than chasing things.

When Iris gives chase to a ginger moggy, Bea sets aside her tablet and follows her dog, over the fence and into the garden next door.

The greenhouse she finds there is full of plants. From the rustling leaves leaps the cat but could something else be watching the girl, casting an enormous shadow over her?

Before her stands a huge green giant, friendly seeming and with a story he wants to share. Bea learns that long ago back in the city he germinated becoming a happy seedling but then as the city air became increasingly toxic, he was forced to flee, eventually finding refuge in the roomy greenhouse wherein he now stays.

It’s a happy summer Bea spends with her green friends but all too soon, the holiday draws to an end.

The giant gives his human friend a parting gift – handful of seeds.

Back in the city once more, Bea is struck by its greyness and she knows just what to do.

Thus with the help of sunlight and water, operation transformation begins to take place … Perhaps it might one day be a place which her giant friend would be happy to visit.

The disconnect with the natural world that has come about in part due to the digital gadget obsession of many youngsters is cleverly understated, while the importance of caring for our precious natural environment comes through more urgently in Katie’s eco-story. There are definite links between them and it’s up to us as educators/parents to set a positive example to youngsters before it’s too late.

A book to share, discuss and act upon at home and in school.

Forgotten Beasts / Dictionary of Dinosaurs / Dinosaur Bingo

Forgotten Beasts
Matt Sewell
Pavilion Children’s Books

If you’ve ever wondered about the strange animals that were concurrent with, or followed in the footsteps of, the dinosaurs, then Matt Sewell’s sumptuous new book is the place to go. ‘Welcome to the amazing world of forgotten beasts!’ announces the introductory line of the book’s blurb. Of the over forty astonishing creatures large and small, most are completely new to this reviewer. Matt supplies readers with a note on his illustrations and there’s a double spread with a time line and other introductory matter before the animals are showcased.

First, we’re introduced to some of the very earliest ones that made their homes in the water: there’s the Ordovician marine dwelling Cameroceras with its 9-metre-long conical shell and the Dunkleosteus from the late Devonian period with its razor sharp teeth that it used to crack open shells of the creatures it fed on.

Two of my favourites though come much later, from the late Pliocene – late Pleistocene era.: meet the herbivorous rhino-like Elasmotherium that weighed between 3,500 and 4,500 kg.

Despite being only around a metre tall, the horn of the male sometimes grew to a length of 1.8 metres.
Another, the enormous owl Ornimegalonyx, is also from the late Pleistocene era. Over a metre tall, it weighed nine kilos.

Awesome!

Written in consultation with vertebrate palaeontologist, Dr Stephen Brusatte from Edinburgh University, this fascinating book will broaden he horizons of dinosaur enthusiasts. Every one of Matt’s magnificent paintings is a stunner.

Dictionary of Dinosaurs
illustrated by Dieter Braun, edited by Dr. Matthew G.Baron
Wide Eyed Editions

Wow! Every dinosaur that has ever been discovered is featured in this pictorial dictionary and who better to grace its pages with his awesome illustrations than Dieter Braun.

After a short introduction explaining the what, when, the demise and evidence of dinosaurs, comes a timeline and a page explaining how the book might be used.
Then we meet each one from Aardonyx and Abelisaurus to Zhuchengtyrannus and Zuniceratops, none of which I’d previously heard of.
There’s a brief informative description that includes  how to pronounce the name, length, diet, when it lived and where found – just sufficient to whet the appetite and perhaps send eager readers off searching for additional information about some of particular interest.

For dinosaur addicts and school libraries or topic boxes I suggest.

For those who can’t get enough of things prehistoric, is a game for the dino-mad:

Dinosaur Bingo
illustrated by Caroline Selmes
Magma for Laurence King Publishing

In the sturdy box are a folded caller’s game board, eight double-sided players’ game boards, 48 dinosaur tokens, 150 circular counters and a dinosaur head box to contain the tokens.
Between three and eight people can participate in what is likely to be a popular take on the classic game. Players might even learn some new dinosaur names such as Maiasaura or Therizinosaurus along the way. I certainly did.

Great for families or a group of friends, and it would make a good present for a dinosaur-loving child.

The King Who Banned the Dark

The King Who Banned the Dark
Emily Haworth-Booth
Pavilion Children’s Books

There was once a boy who, like many children was afraid of the dark. The difference here is that the boy in question is a prince.
He resolves that as soon as he becomes King he will ban the dark once and for all.

His advisers are wary of his subjects’ response and so instead their plan is to make the king’s subjects think that getting rid of the dark is their idea.

They start spreading anti dark rumours, which soon have the desired affect. Now all that’s left to do is to ensure darkness never returns; this is done by the installation of a massive artificial sun above the palace and light enforcers.

Soon people have dispensed with their curtains, anti-dark hats are given out, lamps shine continuously and nights are spent in celebrating.

Unsurprisingly this crazy situation is unsustainable: the pleasure of continual celebrating wanes and instead, constant sleeplessness results in extreme tiredness. The people realise they’ve made a huge mistake. (Sounds familiar)
Even the King is affected.
Something must be done: his advisors hatch a plan. So too do the people.

All power to the people say I; and it’s they who finally win through.

To me this reads like a cautionary tale of our BREXIT times. But no matter how you interpret Emily Haworth-Booth’s debut picture book it’s a powerful reminder of what might happen when people act in haste without thinking things through.

Her choice of a predominantly yellow, black and white colour palette is perfect for spotlighting the messages of the story, not least of which are that we have the collective power to influence our future and, to do things rather than to let things be done to us. Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel: bring on The People’s Vote.

A smashing and thoroughly provocative picture book. Wither next for Emily Haworth-Booth I wonder: I can’t wait to see.

Odd Science: Amazing Inventions

Daniel discovering some amazing inventions …

Odd Science: Amazing Inventions
James Olstein
Pavilion Children’s Books

What struck me immediately while reading about the amazing inventions in this book, is the crucial role of the imagination in each and every one of them; something all too many of those who’ve played a part in side-lining or cutting completely, creative subjects in schools seem to have overlooked or disregarded.
Without the power of imagination none of these ground-breaking ideas would ever have been conceived let alone come to fruition.

Weird and wacky-seeming, for sure: this book is brimming over with quirky, illustrated facts about all kinds of inventions and discoveries from penicillin to plastic-using pens; the matchstick to the microwave.

What about a nanobot so tiny it could swim inside a human body to perform medical procedures;

or non-melting ice-cream that retains its shape for hours .You can buy the stuff – it’s called Kanazawa – in Japan.

How super to have a pair of super-light, super-strong trainers made from spider silk that can be composted once they’re finished with.

Or perhaps a garment made of fabric that can be cleaned by holding it up to the light. Aussie scientists have manufactured such a fabric and it contains tiny structures that release a burst of energy that degrades stains; yes please.

Certainly the roads around the country could do with making use of the self-healing concrete developed by Dutch microbiologist, Hendrik Marius Jonkers. It uses bacteria to heal cracks in buildings and roads.

Even more surprising than some of the inventions themselves is the fact that they were accidentally discovered, penicillin being one, superglue another.

Hours of immersive, fun-filled learning made all the more enjoyable by author James Olstein’s quirky, retro-style illustrations on every spread.