Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug / Dinosaur Farm!

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug
Jonathan Stutzman and Jay Fleck
Chronicle Books

Daft and sweet sums up this story of one very small T. Rex and his enormous challenge.

Tiny, as he tells us at the outset has tiny arms and a strong desire to cheer up his stegosaurus friend Pointy by giving him a hug.

Determined to overcome his design fault and bestow a comforting embrace upon his best pal, Tiny consults various members of his family. His father suggests the solution might be a mathematical one: ‘Rexes are thinkers, not huggers.’ he proffers.
Auntie Junip – a yoga buff – suggests balance (along with a healthy drink of cucumber juice), offers the best means of problem solving.

Thank goodness then for his mum, for now Tiny is both battered and lost until she discovers him and gives some words of reassurance about his being creative, kind, brave and big-hearted.

It’s siblings, Trixie and Rawie that have the most useful suggestion: ‘To do the impossible you must plan and practice.’

However well intentioned this advice – and Tiny is ready to embrace it – the practice doesn’t go so well for the little guy.

And his final hug is a huge error although he does make an important discovery while airborne.

All ends well, though to reveal what happens will spoil the compassionate finale.

Young listeners will doubtless be rooting for Tiny throughout Stutzman’s wryly humorous tale and enjoy Fleck’s minimally detailed stylised digital art; mine certainly did, requesting an immediate re-reading.

Who can fail to admire Tiny with his determination not to let his physical limitations get in the way of his big-hearted instincts?

Dinosaur Farm!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow

You might be surprised to learn of a gang of dinosaurs running a farm unless you happen to be familiar with Penny Dale’s dinosaur brigade. In which case you’ll already know that these prehistoric beasts can take on all manner of unlikely roles so farming is no challenge too far despite Dinosaur Farm being an extremely busy place.

There are fields to plough – up and down, up and down as well as sheep that need feeding.

A group of noisy dinosaurs are building a fence, bang, bang banging in the wooden posts while a rather pongy Allosaurus is muck-spreading.

We see two of the team making the hay into bales and others digging up the muddy carrots.

When the sun comes out, it’s time to get out the combine harvester and cut the corn. Then there’s the apple harvest to pick – red, juicy fruits aplenty – yum, yum.

Finally all the produce needs cleaning and packing: it keeps the entire group of ten working late into the night but what is all this hard work for?

Where could they be going next morning with their trailer loaded? There’s certainly excitement in the air …

Told as usual in rhythmic language, the story is punctuated by contextually apt exclamations your little ones will love to join in with, while Penny Dale’s elaborately detailed pencil and watercolour scenes will absorb them visually. They’ll likely be amused at such humorous touches as the ‘Haymaking dinosaurs …’ scene that shows one of the two propped up against a bale, seemingly snoozing.

Piratical Dinosaurs and A Lost One

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Dinosaur Pirates!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow
The dinosaur brigade return for their fifth adventure and they’ve become swashbuckling buccaneers on a secret journey to a distant island to unearth, with the help of their secret map, the buried treasure.

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And after a day’s hard work they find the chest and load it onto their ship but then along comes another ship: it’s the dastardly robbing raptors intent on seizing the treasure for themselves. A fearsome battle ensues with clashing, pushing – that’s the dinosaurs; and snapping – that’s the raptors, until eventually one of the ships starts to sink – that’s the raptors’; and they’re forced to abandon ship and leap for their lives.

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Do they survive? Who knows; but suffice it to say that the victors are thrilled to find their chest is full of shiny gold. Yo, ho, ho! A chest full of gold.
Fans of the ten versatile Dinosaurs will delight in their latest undertaking and the story should win them some new followers too. It provides plenty of opportunities for noisy joining in with the text and offers a super small world play starting point for early years children.

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Pete’s Magic Pants: The Lost Dinosaur
Paddy Kempshall and Chris Chatterton
Egmont
When Pete discovers a suitcase stored in an old wardrobe one day, he’s amazed to find it’s full of all sorts of magic pants and each pair possesses the power to transport him off on exciting adventures – once he’s put them on that is.

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The boy’s donning of a particularly hairy pair of pants results in him being pantsported into a forest where he comes upon first a chicken carrying a large club and a skateboard, and second, an egg out of which hatches a baby dinosaur.
It’s looks like a case of mistaken identity when this babe licks Pete on the nose and asks, “Dada?” Fortunately though, the small chicken declares himself a “good dinosaur finder” and the three set of in search of the real Dino Dada. It’s a search that results in some rather terrifying encounters

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until eventually after a seemingly exhaustive hunt, they stop to rest beside a ‘tree’ …

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My only quibble with this action-packed, seek and find tale is that young children might conclude that ‘caveman’ pants taking the protagonist into a forest wherein he discovers a dinosaur egg, means that dinosaurs and cavemen co-existed.

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Heroes Small and Large

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Mighty Small
Timothy Knapman and Rosie Reeve
Oxford University Press
Meet Max, a diminutive would-be superhero who wears a cape and his pants over his trousers. Despite his best efforts however, Max’s superhero status goes unrecognized and he is forced to abandon the role, until that is, the circus comes to town. In all the razzle dazzle none of the townsfolk notices the shady goings on of some of the so-called performers who are actually bent on robbing the town of its riches. Time to prove himself a scared Max decides and it’s a case of BADDIE PANTS BEWARE! as our young rodent leaps into action and is immediately hot on the heels of the dastardly thieves.

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Before long Max is inside the Big Top yelling threatening orders to the robbers as he casts an almighty shadow in front of them. Their leader however isn’t that easily fooled and there follows some aerobatics and more on Max’s part before he finds himself face to face with Mr Big himself. It’s then that Max realizes his superpower and on hearing what the clowns say, has no hesitation in putting it into action …

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Guess what young Max spends his reward money on …

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A slightly crazy story which demonstrates that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes – a powerful message for young children – delivered by author and artist with panache and humour, not to mention a smattering of Ka-Pows Yee-harrs, Thwacks, Whumpfs and Pows.

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Dinosaur Rocket!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow pbk
The dinosaur team returns with the fourth adventure in the series. So, it’s to the launch pad and after the final countdown,

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they’re off into space for a lunar expedition. Just imagine the size of their spacecraft to house such enormous crew members.
On arrival they drive their buggies,

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post their flag, for no dinosaurs have ever before been to the moon, then it’s time for space soccer and some collecting of rock samples. But before long it seems, the cosmonauts are blasting off back towards home and a safe splashdown on the ocean.
Dinosaurs and space are two endlessly popular topics with young audiences who will doubtless relish the combination of the two, herein. Penny Dale’s energetic illustrations (which also include other machines) are full of fascinating details and have enormous child appeal.

 

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Big Pet Day
Lisa Shanahan and Gus Gordon
Templar Publishing pbk
Mrs Dalton’s class is having a Pet Day and there’s to be a competition for the best pet. Courtney has brought hermit crabs, Ahmed, a pair of parrots, Caleb, a puppy, Sofia a duck, Glen, a ferret and Jody has her pony. Lily’s pet is a dragon. ‘There’s no such thing as dragons,’ Courtney maintains and continues in similar vein throughout. Soon with all those squawks, squeaks, quacks and woofs, the classroom has become a veritable menagerie. Best pet behaviour is supposed to be the order of the day but …

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The entire day is devoted to pet activities: there’s a carpet time discussion, a dried dog food eating contest between Caleb’s puppy and Glen (unofficial),

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the children draw pictures of their pets (Lily’s being the favourite – it shows her flying on her dragon’s back), lunchtime brings a show of pet tricks and after there’s the competition judging by headteacher, Mr Fisher.
The event turns out to be a rip-roaring success … kind of.
The winner of the large gold trophy is …

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With an action-packed text, a whole host of lively characters – human and animal, spot-on dialogue and amusing, wonderfully detailed mixed media illustrations, this is both a visual and verbal treat of a tale. I can see it becoming very popular in early years settings and younger primary classrooms.

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Badger and the Great Storm
Suzanne Chiew and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press
This heartwarming tale features selfless Badger who, on hearing from Mouse that a terrible storm is on its way, puts friendship and the safety of his friends’ homes before his own. The resourceful character goes to great lengths to ensure that Rabbit’s burrow, Bird’s nest

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and Mouse’s hole are secure from the deluge and then stays overnight with Rabbit and his family. But on the morning following the storm his friends discover that disaster has struck Badger’s oak tree home. Badger however is not daunted. “Every problem has a solution!” he comments accepting their offers of help. Then together the friends set to work to create a very special new residence

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for their hero who finds an important use for Hedgehog’s tiny acorn.
A great message about being a true friend that offers children at home or in an early years setting a starting point for an exploration of friendship. The sight of badger sharing a bedtime story with all those baby rabbits is something to celebrate

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and I was delighted to learn that Badger prioritised the rescuing of his books in the aftermath of the storm. A creature after my own heart.

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Picture Book Allsorts

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Wanda and the Alien to the Rescue
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Rabbit Wanda and her alien friend discover a small, lost creature in the woods one day. After an abortive search for his mummy, they take him home, wash him, feed him and eventually succeed in getting him to bed. Next morning after breakfasting on a custard concoction, the little creature is starting to make more mischief when his mummy arrives on the scene.

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Reunited again, parent and child depart leaving the friends to relax together peacefully at home. O- oh! Who is that knocking on their door? …
Fans of Wanda and her Alien pal will be delighted to know that they are soon to star in a TV series; meanwhile, they can enjoy this, their third, slightly crazy, adventure in book form with its sparkling cover and gentle humour. Just right for an early years story time.
In my experience these stories spark off children’s own creative ideas in the way of picture and model making and message writing. Perhaps this one might result in some music making and you might want to have a few packets of custard powder and bowls ready after sharing the story.
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Meet the Parents
Peter Bently and Sarah Ogilvie
Simon and Schuster pbk
Parents are not there merely to boss their offspring about: they have many much more useful roles too. They make handy mending machines, large handwarmers, building foundations, horses and donkeys. They are great targets for hoses and ketchup, toy hunters, twirlers, tree trunks and much more.

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They are great muddle and mess sorters, have wonderful memories, and are super storytellers, apologisers and comforters. Watch out though, their fingers just love to … TICKLE!
Lively, bright, jocund elaborations of Bently’s engaging rhyming text,
Sara Ogilvie’s hilarious portrayals of family life cannot fail to delight both youngsters and their parents.
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Crayon
Simon Rickerty
Simon and Schuster pbk
In Simon Rickery’s latest witty offering he entertains young (and not so young) readers with some crazy crayons capers. Two blobby characters, a red one with a blue crayon and a blue one with a red crayon wield their implements in turn, keeping to their own territories. But then Red crosses the gully with his mark making. This transgression leads to a verbal battle and worse. The friends cross crayons and before long Red’s blue is snapped in two. Blue makes a peace offering in the form of his red crayon but Red misuses it and turns his friend purple. Enter a purple blobby character. Purple wields the power with purple, yellow, pink, orange, brown and green crayons which, leaving Red all alone, he and Blue use to co-create building blocks. Soon all that’s missing is a roof and what colour is needed for that?

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Time for a friendship to be repaired …
With minimal text and simple forms, Rickerty has fashioned a perfect parable of how a childish dispute develops, flares up and is resolved.
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I totally don’t want to play
Ann Bonwill and Simon Rickerty
Oxford University Press
The bird/hippo friendship of Bella and Hugo is threatened by a third party. Hugo is not happy; his invitation to go skating has been turned down by his best pal, Bella. Bella has found a new companion, Cressida and is off to the playground with her instead. Bella grudgingly invites Hugo to tag along but as he quickly finds out, the real fun does not appear to include him.

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Before long though, it’s Bella’s turn to feel left out. “I’m going home,” she announces huffily. Just in time, Cressida suggests a game that is absolutely perfect for three friends together.
Ann Bonwill’s manner of telling (she uses dialogue throughout) works particularly well for this, the third Hugo and Bella story. Simon Rickerty’s delightful illustrations, executed with simple shapes, black blotchy outlines and bright dayglo colours bring occasional hilarity to the scenes; I particularly like the images of the diminutive Bella endeavouring to push Cressida on the swing. Triangular friendships are often tricky but this author/artist partnership has created a story which demonstrates that with a bit of give and take, it can work.
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Dinosaur Rescue!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow
Prepare yourself for some noisy story sessions with the latest adventure of Penny Dale’s dinosaur troop. Here , they race to the rescue in aid of a large truck stuck across a railway crossing. As the train dashes down the line, along they come in fire engine, ambulance, police car, helicopter and on foot making a glorious cacophony. Then Screech! Screech! Screech! The steam train grinds to a halt just in time and it’s rescue dinosaur teamwork in action to ensure the safety of everything and everyone.

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With crashed truck hitched to Dinotow, team members drive back to base ready for some thoroughly deserved rest and play, and of course, a hearty meal.
Once again, Penny Dale provides a winning formula – dinosaurs and large vehicles this time. A perfect opportunity for chuffing, calling, Nee Naa-ing wooing, choppa chopping, brake screeching and more.
This one would be brilliant to act out either with small world dinosaurs and vehicles or with children themselves, some acting as dinosaurs, others a chuffing train, rushing rescue trucks, racing police car, hovering, swooping helicopter or lifting, brrming tow truck.. And, as well as vocal accompaniment, audiences could suggest percussion instruments or other items to create the various sounds.
If all that isn’t enough, or you just want to quieten things down a little, then turn to the end papers for some visual delight: at the front is the dinosaur rescue team at the ready, wonderfully portrayed in bright colours and at the back are the rescue vehicles.
The text bursts with energy, not to mention onomatopoeia. Yes we adults might argue with the actions of the dinosaurs staying right by their crashed truck as the train charges ever closer, but I’m sure it will be another resounding hit with its target audience of under fives.
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Who’s in the Tree that Shouldn’t Be?
Craig Shuttlewood
Templar Publishing
To discover the answer to the title question follow the instruction on the first page and then lift the flap opposite to reveal a perplexed-looking penguin on a branch. In the tree too are more animals that also have something so say and add to the rhyme.
Readers can find the identity of a whole host of other out-of-place creatures – in the long grass, in the air, in the desert, in the ocean, in the ice and snow, in space even;

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then, turn to the final spread and see who is out of place there.
Quirky creatures, their somewhat offbeat comments and mixed media, slightly crazy illustrations by artist Craig Shuttlewood are the key ingredients of this interactive book. It’s a quality production too.
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What are you playing at?
Marie-Sabine Roger and Anne Sol
Alanna Books
I love the provocative style of this picture book that challenges gender stereotypes and powerfully advocates a ‘You can be anything/do anything’ mode of thinking and being. The use of photographs of children, for example a girl engaged in domestic play, opposite such thought-provoking assertions as ‘boys don’t play kitchens’ written large on a page that folds out to reveal a male chef, acts as a superb counter to the gender biased statements. Other flaps reveal men dancing, feeding a baby, skipping and crying and women playing soccer,

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driving cars, working as boat builders and flying rockets.
Share this with a group of infants; it will assuredly get them thinking and arguing.
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Finally, here is a handful of books I’ve previously reviewed which are now out in paperback:

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How amazing that Mike Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s brilliant We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Walker Books) is celebrating its 25th anniversary – congratulations!
Assuredly it’s a book that should be in every young child’s library. How about buying a copy to give on International Book Giving Day which is coming up soon.

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