The Last Tiger

The Last Tiger
Petr Horáček
Otter-Barry Books

Animal freedom and conservation are the themes underlying Petr Horáček’s stunningly illustrated, ominously titled new book that begins in the jungle where there dwells a fearless tiger, the strongest, most powerful creature of all.

When a group of hunters come to the jungle, the other animals are alarmed and flee into hiding, urging the tiger to do likewise.

Undaunted the tiger ignores their warning and he’s spotted by the men who are determined to capture the beautiful creature.

Back to the city they go only to return with more men and a plan.
Luring the tiger into a net, they catch him, and he’s taken away and put in a cage for all to see.

In captivity, the unhappy tiger dreams only of running free in the jungle and gradually wastes away. The humans lose interest in him

and one night he’s able to slip between the bars of his cage.

Free once more, the tiger regains his strength and stature while always remembering that what he values most is being free.

Very much a modern fable, this thought provoking book with its vibrant, richly patterned art invites readers of all ages to consider the fragility of freedom itself.

Grumpy Duck

Grumpy Duck
Joyce Dunbar and Petr Horáček
Walker Books

Down at the pond there’s a duck with the grumps but who can blame her since her pond is dry and she’s all alone without a playmate in sight.

Off she goes to seek one, her first request being directed to Dog. Dog is more than willing so long as Duck will join in with some messy hole digging. Duck, having no wish for filthy feathers turns down the offer, thus increasing the size of the little grey cloud that is accompanying her.

Pig’s muddy puddle is deemed too pongy, she doesn’t do ‘cockadoodling’, nor competitive hopping,

peaceful dozing or clothes chomping, so Duck also refuses the suggestions proffered by Cockerel, Rabbit, Tortoise and Goat.

By now, that cloud above her is both black and absolutely ginormous; big enough to cover all those animals whose offers have been rejected and now they, along with Duck, look pretty dejected.

All of a sudden that black cloud, as is the wont of such aerosol masses, decides to burst, precipitating a multitude of BIG SHINY WET SPLASHY RAINDROPS.

Before long the cacophony issuing from their sloshy, sploshy, splashy splishy surroundings is that emitted by seven joyful farmyard residents having the time of their lives.

And the big black cloud? That’s nowhere to be seen; instead the sky is emblazoned with all the colours of the rainbow.

Joyce Dunbar’s patterned text is full of delicious alliteration and a delight to read aloud. I can see this soon becoming a storytime favourite and one that children may well want to try reading for themselves once they’ve heard the story a couple of times.

Petr Horáček’s illustrations are more scribbly delicious than ever. Splendidly expressive and instantly recognisable: I wonder how many listeners, already lovers of Horáček’s vibrant art will bring to mind his Greedy Goat when they see the garment gobbling Goat in this story.

When the Moon Smiled / Vehicles ABC

When the Moon Smiled
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
Full of twinkling charm is this board book version of a favourite Petr Horáček counting story.

One evening the moon rises to discover that everything down below has gone topsy-turvy. The animals that should have been awake are nowhere in sight while those that ought to have been asleep are still awake.

Time to light the stars and set things right, thinks the moon. And so he does, one by one.

The first star lit sends the dog into the land of nod; the second is for the two cats; they stretch and go out on the prowl.

Then in turn he goes on to light a star, for, the three cows, four bats,

five pigs, six foxes, seven geese, eight mice, nine sheep and finally, the tenth star is for the moths.

Now the entire sky is full of stars shining down over the farm and all’s right with the world.

It’s a perfect bedtime story for little ones, so written in a lyrical manner and illustrated in mixed media by Horáček, as to induce a feeling of somnolence.

Children will love to join in counting the stars and animals along with the moon as he alternates between setting to rights the diurnal and nocturnal creatures, before falling fast asleep themselves.

Vehicles ABC
Jannie Ho
Nosy Crow

Just right for introducing an assortment of 26 means of transport, from ambulance to zeppelin, is this alphabetic array of vehicles that run on land, move across water or fly through the air.

If your child’s at that stage, it’s great for learning letters of the alphabet by name and also the initial sounds; although electric car and ice-cream van, unicycle, Queen Mary and express train will need a bit of extra talking about (one of the snags of phonics).

With bold bright images against equally bright backgrounds to enjoy, the sounds of the various vehicles to make – both you and your toddler can have fun being inventive over this – plus possibilities such as wheels, lack of, who might drive and countless other possible things to talk about, this little board book is simply bursting with a wealth of language learning potential.

Board Book Choice

Where is Little Fish?
Count with Little Fish

Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Lucy Cousins who created Hooray for Fish adds two new board books to her undersea titles and they’re absolutely perfect for babies and toddlers.
In the first, Little Fish is in playful mood as he enjoys a game of hide and seek with his undersea friends. The repeat question starting ‘Is Little Fish … ‘ is an open invitation for listeners to join in with the game.
Finding him is tricky as there are all manner of hiding places on the ocean floor – behind the coral, inside a shell or the treasure chest, perhaps even among the seaweed fronds.
Tinies can enjoy discovering his location and meeting some of his playmates by manipulating the flap on each spread.

Here’s one year old Raf. doing just that!

Count with Little Fish is a rhyming suggestion to join in as the tiny creature swims through the water meeting 2 fin-fin fish

3 counting fish, 4 flying fish, 5 fat fish, 6 thin ones, 7 scary sharp toothed ones, 8 shy ones, 9 that have turned themselves upside down and finally 10 fish swimming in a circle.
A fun-filled first counting book.

Who is Sleeping?
Who is the Biggest?

Petr Horáček
Walker Books

Lift the flap fun with classy, textured images of wonderfully personable creatures partially hidden, on spreads absolutely bursting with colour in Petr Horáček’s signature style: what more could a toddler want?
In Who’s Sleeping? they meet a dozing owl, a napping frog, a snoozing crocodile, a sleeping fish and a slumbering Polar bear and a final child in dreamland in this enchanting guessing game.
A variety of descriptive words are introduced as contrasting sized wild animals pose side by side in the half dozen spreads of Who is the Biggest? There’s ‘Brave Lion and Shy Meerkat, Short Penguin and Tall Ostrich, Slow Tortoise and Fast Hare, Heavy Whale and Light Jellyfish, Noisy Parrot and Quiet Mouse and these two beauties …

But the biggest of all lurks behind Big Monkey’s tail. Now what could that be?
Wonderfully shaped wild beasts and flaps to explore add up to hours of visual pleasure and some new vocabulary to learn along the way.

Storytime with Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Red Reading Hub’s favourite board book character stars in a new addition to Sophy Henn’s lift-the-flap series as he contemplates the possibilities of storytime.
Will it be full of magical wizards with their twinkly spells? Or a stomping dinosaur adventure perhaps. What about a fairytale; Ted loves this one …

but he also enjoys spooky tales; maybe he’ll choose one of those.
Now his animal audience is assembled, and they’re all sitting comfortably, what will their “Once upon a time… “ story be? What would you choose?
Ted and his entourage never fail to delight and so it is here. If you and your toddler have yet to encounter Ted, I urge you to do so right away; he’s utterly adorable.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Mouse Who Wasn’t Scared

The Mouse Who Wasn’t Scared
Petr Horàček
Walker Books

From the cover illustration of Little Mouse clad in stripy boots, gloves and tail warmer, we know we’re in for a treat with Petr Horàček’s latest picture book.

Despite her size, Little Mouse is a fearless creature. That, at least, is what she assures Rabbit in response to his warning about the woods being full of large scary animals.

Off she goes to explore.

Deep in the woods she comes upon something large and grey under the branches of a tree …

and this is what she says, “You don’t scare me … Do you want to play?

Receiving no response from the wolf, Little Mouse continues on her way.

In the shadows sits a very large bear, which Little Mouse addresses in similar fashion. Again no reply is forthcoming.

The moose also remains silent in response to her invitation to play,

so Little Mouse proceeds cheerily and confidently onwards until she spies a little house.

The creature waiting behind the door certainly isn’t big and is more than willing to play with Little Mouse; but …

By means of the textual pattern and atmospheric mixed media illustrations, Horàček builds tension slowly, controlling the pacing perfectly until Little Mouse reaches the house.
When readers turn the cut-down page to open the cottage door, they’re already eagerly anticipating something unexpected though perhaps not what is revealed waiting within.

A great read aloud be that with a nursery group or with individuals.

Picken / Animal Counting


Mary Murphy
Walker Books
What a clever title for this ‘mix and match’ farm animal book. Here youngsters surely can ‘pick ‘n mix’ the opposite sides of this split page board book to create a host of crazy animals. Thus for instance, a Calf can become a Camb, a Cacken, a Catten, a Caglet, a Case …


(I’ll leave you to work out what animal the rear end belongs to) and a Cappy.
A kitten on the other hand, might be a Kilf or a Kimb …


or four other strange creatures.
Essentially this is a game in a book and with Mary Murphy’s bold, bright illustrations, a delightful one at that. In addition, it’s a wonderfully playful way to develop some sound/symbol associations.


Animal Counting
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
This lift-the flap animal book is just the thing to encourage the very young to participate in the development of their counting skills. Brightly coloured images of a giraffe, zebras, cheetahs …


snakes, crocodiles, chameleons, toucans, pandas, lemurs and finally fish are presented alongside the appropriate numeral and when the half-page flap on the right-hand side of each double spread is lifted, it reveals both a number symbol fashioned from the featured animal and the corresponding number word.


To add further interest, each animal is described in an adjectival phrase such as-‘Seven Screeching toucans‘ or ‘Nine leaping lemurs‘.

The Greedy Goat


The Greedy Goat
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
What a tremendous treat of an extended joke of a book this is. I thought at first that the particular Goat in question must have an extraordinarily strong constitution as she gobbles up dog’s food for her breakfast, washed down with slurps of the cat’s milk; this is followed by a veritable 3-course lunch: pig’s potato peelings for starters, the farmer’s wife’s plant as entrée and his daughter’s shoe for dessert. And her supper – can you believe it- is this …


It should come as no surprise then that after a whole day’s experimental gormandising our heroine starts to feel its effects.


Moreover, the farmer’s family too have noticed the absence of their things and the guzzler seems to have absented herself too. Come Sunday, she looks thus:


It takes a whole week for our experimental eater to get back to her usual self: but that still leaves one small girl in need of new footwear and the farmer short of his boxers. They never do turn up – well maybe they do but let’s not go there! And the goat? Is she now a reformed vegetarian, never to stray from her herbivorous diet again? Umm … who wants to ruin your dessert? The proof of the pudding is in the reading …
Petr Horáček has served up a truly flavoursome cautionary tale with spicy ingredients: a piquant main player, supported by a copacetic cast and – as ever – delectable mixed media illustrations that will be relished by children (who may well try their hand at some of his techniques) and the adults who serve up this treat to them.

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Shiny Red Objects – Misidentifications

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Toad and I
Louise Yates
Jonathan Cape
I’ve loved all Louise Yates’ Dog Loves … books so couldn’t wait to read this one. It’s altogether different; Dog is nowhere in sight but we meet some congenial new characters.
Herein we meet young Kitty who, by dint of searching for her lost ball, comes upon the resident of a large tree – a Toad no less; not the kind that on receipt of a kiss becomes a handsome prince, but one that is eager to invite Kitty into his hole of residence aka his treehouse.

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And it’s one that has all mod cons as Toad is only too happy to point out …

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but while he’s so doing, the pair are interrupted by the arrival of Squirrel who announces an injured owl without. Having hastily donned suitable gear, they hurry out to repair the damage so to speak and in so doing, they discover its cause: “A meteorite,” said Owl. “It knocked me off my branch.

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Next stop is back inside – the observatory in case of further meteorite fall. In comes Shrew with another announcement, concerning his house this time. There follows further investigations of a somewhat crazy kind …

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until finally, Kitty takes matters into her own hands, unearths the root of all the trouble and guess what: it’s that small, once spherical object that she’d been playing with at the start; and it had set in motion a whole catastrophic concatenation of Owl displacing, house squashing and hedgehog hitting. Fortunately nobody really minded and even more fortunately Toad and Kitty are able to repair all the damage …

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in time for a game before teatime.
With a lovely final twist – or should that be bounce, we leave the friends to their farewells and promises of further meetings …
What a delicious cast of characters Louise Yates has conjured up here: I hope she brings them back for further adventures.

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The Mouse Who Reached the Sky
Petr Horâček
Walker Books
Co-operation is key in this gorgeous follow-up to The Mouse Who Ate the Moon. Herein Little Mouse spies a shiny red ‘marble’ hanging in a tree, wants it and tries unsuccessfully to reach it.

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Determined to get it however, she enlists the help of Mole who decides it’s a balloon but is equally unsuccessful in reaching the object so they ask Rabbit, who assures them it’s a ball. But can they come up with a plan that will enable them to reach the spherical object, bring it down and finally, identify the thing? Maybe – so long as they work as a team …

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They try their best but despite all their stretching they can’t quite get there … “Oh no!” – “Whoops!” … CRASH! But all is not lost – definitely not, for down it comes together with hundreds more and at last identification done, let the feast commence …

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With a cut-out page and a fold-out, the bright, richly textured, collaged mixed-media illustrations are enormously tactile, appealing to both children and adults. The former will delight in peering down Mole’s hole …

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and then out when the page is turned; and opening the vertical gatefold to reveal the teetering trio.
A beauty from start to thoroughly satisfying finish.

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Blue Penguin

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Blue Penguin
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
There’s a magical and luminous quality to the icy landscapes dazzlingly rendered by Petr Horáček in this sublime story on the theme of insiders and outsiders.
Into a penguin colony, in the far south, is born a new baby – a blue penguin. His fellow penguins are amazed. ”Are you a real penguin?” they ask and indeed Blue Penguin does all the penguiny things like diving and jumping (although he doesn’t excel); but he is ace at fishing.

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Bemused though, they begin to shun him leaving a very sad, empty-feeling Blue Penguin with no company save his night-time dreams.
Into one, repeatedly, comes a beautiful white whale that transports him far from his lonely place every night; and every morning Blue Penguin sings the whale a song sending it out across the ocean.

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This song catches the ear of another penguin drawing her closer day by day until finally, “Teach me your song,” she asks.

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Thus the two forge a friendship as Little Penguin learns to sing Blue Penguin’s song and they play and sing together.
Then comes a night when Blue Penguin decides they should sing a new song. Such is its magic that it draws in the other penguins, who, enchanted by its beauty, also want to learn the song. But his teaching is halted in its tracks by the arrival of a huge white whale that has heard the song and responded to its call.

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Now Blue Penguin has a decision to make: old song or new? Go with his dreamtime friend or remain with his new friend Little Penguin: maybe the other penguins will have some influence on his decision …
Sometimes a book comes along that sends shivers of delight right through you. Such a one is this. If only Blue Penguin’s song could be taught to everyone, the world over; maybe a copy of this beautiful, big-hearted tale should be given to each and every child, educational establishment, organisation and every nation’s leader.

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Gracie and Leo enchanted by Blue Penguin and the beauty of the book

Imagine …

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Toddler Time

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A Recipe for Bedtime
Peter Bently and Sarah Massini
Hodder Children’s Books
Baby, baby soft and sweet,
Almost good enough to eat!
It’s night-night time so come with me,
And hear my bedtime recipe.

We are invited to share a bedtime ritual along with teddy (who has the perfect recipe book), and other assorted toys who help put the human infant to bed. After a snack, there’s a cuddle, clothes off, into the bath with lots of warm water and bubbles, then a rub-a-dub with a huge towel – perfect for a quick game of Peek-a-Boo,

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a tummy softening squirt– thank you elephant, into those jimjams and a drink of milk. Now put said infant into a warm place with a sprinkling of kisses and a cosy cover, not forgetting a sleep-inducing ‘Hush-a-bye’ song; now climb in everyone. Night-night.
With its tender, gently soporific rhyming text and pictures so beautifully in tune, I can imagine this becoming a bedtime favourite with many a toddler.

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Are You My Mummy?
Mary Murphy
Walker Books
In this enchanting board book we join a little pup as it travels around the farm asking the various animal inhabitants, “Are you my mummy?” After encounters with a sheep, a cow, a horse, a cat, a pig

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and a duck, our persistent pup finally finds a large dog and joy of joys, her response is “Yes … and you’re my lovely puppy!
Cute animals, a simple patterned text and flaps to open revealing each mother’s little one are the key ingredients of this new addition to the Baby Walker series. It’s just the thing to share with the very youngest child… again and again I suspect; and slightly older, beginner reader siblings might well enjoy reading it to a baby brother or sister.

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Where Do You Live Snail?
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
Snail sets out visiting mouse, the busy bees, a fluffy bird, a shiny fish and hoppy frog asking them in turn, “Where do you live?” Each time he receives the answer, “I (or we) live in … ” The frog then asks snail about his home and discovers that snail has a mobile home on its back.

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The predictable question and answer format together with Petr Horacek’s gorgeous mixed media illustrations make for a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the Baby Walker series. This one has a wheel that when turned, makes the stars shine on snail.
Another beautifully illustrated title in the same series is:
A Surprise for Tiny Mouse
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
As we accompany Tiny Mouse through the seasons we share her enjoyment of nibbling the corn in the sunshine, moving in the crackly leaves on a windy day, feeling the crunchy night-time frost

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and the snow tickling her nose. What she doesn’t like though is splashy rain so off she scampers to hide until out comes the sun once more, and if the wheel is turned …
Cutaway pages and peep-holes further add to the enjoyment of this one.
In my experience beginning readers also get great pleasure from these books if left in early years book baskets for individuals to try reading for themselves.

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Animal Antics


Little E engrossed in Teddy’s bedtime tale

Teddy Bedtime
Georgie Birkett
Andersen Press
In this board book we have some sixty words and seven spreads through which toddlers can enjoy sharing in the bedtime rituals of a trio of teddies plus other toys. Said teds play together then go upstairs for some fun in the bath.


After that , it’s pyjamas on, teeth brushed, storytime and lights out.
A jolly rhymimg text and cute pictures with lots of patterns and items of interest for the very youngest; for bedtimes and other times too.
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The Short Giraffe
Neil Flory and Mark Cleary
Allen & Unwin (Murdoch Books) pbk
When photographer Boba the baboon arrives to take a photo of the tallest animals in the world, he is confronted with a poser of a problem. The desired perfect photograph can easily fit in five giraffe faces but what about Geri? The shortest ever giraffe offers to step aside but the others are having none of it; all credit to them. Various ideas are proffered – stilts, stacking,


inverting, inflating and winging him; but none is successful and eventually the giraffes’ ideas are exhausted. Along comes a caterpillar with a seemingly simple solution (children of course, will already have got there).


Then it’s just a case of a bit of repositioning and neck arching and with Geri in the centre front … click! Perfection at last.


There are laughs aplenty in this neatly simple story of inclusion, embracing differences and exploring things from different perspectives.
With touches of slapstick, Cleary’s digitally manipulated images set for the most part, against manila coloured paper which has the effect of making the candy-coloured animals stand out, (and up) are bound to make you smile.
Share with individuals and small groups.
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The Mouse Who Ate the Moon
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
Little Mouse adores the moon, so much so that she longs to have a piece of her very own. One morning when she wakes up, there, just outside her hole is a slice of her heart’s desire – so she thinks. It smells so wonderful that she takes a tiny nibble, and another and …


Oh no! No round moon now. But when she tells Rabbit and Mole her sad news, they say that nobody can eat the moon. A distraught Little Mouse returns to her hole until dark begins to fall when she hears a noise outside. It’s her friends Mole and Rabbit and they have something to show her, something large and shiny and ROUND in the starry sky. Time for a celebratory sharing of the rest of Little Mouse’s portion of moon, they decide. Mmm – delicious!
This cleverly designed book, with its peepholes and cutaway pages build up the scenes and extend the action as the story progresses. Horacek’s striking illustrations are created with a variety of media including wax resist and strong watercolours; the various techniques serve to add depth and texture.


After sharing the story adults may well take the opportunity to examine more closely with their young audiences, how the scenes have been created and this could well inspire children to try out the techniques for their own artistic creations. Not only a charming and amusing story, but a great art lesson in looking.
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Nina orchestrating the story for her sister

The Farmer’s Away! BAA! NEIGH!
Anne Vittur Kennedy
Walker Books
When the farmer’s away, the animals play. What a din they make too as they tell the story in their very own words: a story of their day of boating,


picnicking, switch-back riding, waterskiing, taking a trip in an air balloon and dancing. All that, until ‘ARF, arf, ARF’… dog gives the warning of the farmer’s return.Then it’s a mad dash, a CHARGE and a leap over the fence


and shh shh shhhhhhhh. Phew!


With its only words being those neighs, baas, quacks, arfs, oinks, rees, clucks cheeps, ribbets, quacks, moos and more uttered by the farm animals as they enjoy their anarchic day while the farmer – with the odd hmm hmm or oh dee doh – toils away on his tractor in the fields –, this delightfully silly story will appeal to children’s sense of the ridiculous. They will love joining in to create that animal cacophony (what better way to sharpen up those sound/symbol associations than this?) as well as relishing the shared joke between them and the author.
The watercolour illustrations of the rural scenes are an absolute hoot too.
Leave this one around in your infant classroom and you’ll hear those sounds echoing all over as children have a go at reading the story themselves.
(You might even create and laminate those animal sounds and leave them for the children to orchestrate their own versions of the book. Then what about some masks? small world play maybe … endless possibilities here.)
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