Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew / Pirates in Classroom 3

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew
Harry L. Herz and Benjamin Schipper
Sterling

Shiver me timbers, I cannot imagine how many crews of piratical dinosaurs there be a’sailin’ the high seas, however here’s one more to add to their number. Meet Pat, Terry, Kyle and of course, their captain, Rex. A right troublesome journey it is they’ve embarked upon too.
First the ship’s rudder becomes fodder for a giant shark; then down comes a fog and having survived those mishaps thanks to some clever steering on Pat’s behalf …

and Terry’s navigation skills they find themselves on dry iand and faced with a volcano at the bottom of which, the treasure might just be buried.
And buried it is but having unearthed same, there follows the question of ownership of the booty. Cap’n Rex doesn’t want to share: his crew think otherwise and let him know in no uncertain terms …

Who is cleverer, Cap’n or crew: that’s the vital question?
With its pepperings of “Arrr“, “Aye” and “can’t ye?”, this is a fun read aloud with plenty of silliness, a bounty of comical illustrations and a final author’s note of piratical words just a few of which come up in the narrative.

Pirates in Classroom 3
Alison Donald and Ben Whitehouse
Maverick Arts Publishing

Still those pirate tales keep on coming; here’s one that starts off in a class of lively children.
When Ms Bitsy leaves her classroom unattended, the children are more than a little surprised by the sudden appearance of Captain Calamity who claims to be searching for treasure; treasure which according to his map is located ‘under the sea’ in their classroom.
The children are eager to help in the search …

but can they locate the booty before the dreaded Pirate Bloodloss gets his hands on it?
Perhaps the clue is in the alphabet frieze, there’s certainly a C there.
Before you can say, ‘Ms. Bitsy’, their teacher has returned and is ready to join them all in an underwater hunt.

A teacher who throws herself into a piratical adventure and is willing to stand up to a bullying pirate will surely win over early years listeners.

Pirate Baby

Pirate Baby
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Otter-Barry Books

Yo ho ho! me hearties, there’s a brand new crew a’sailin’ on the high seas and we all love a good pirate yarn. This one though is altogether different and an absolute humdinger.
The crew of the Ramshackle are more than a little discombobulated when they discover a bawling baby bobbing about on a raft;

all the more so when they find out that the object they’re trying their level best to feed is actually a girl baby.

That’s only the start of their adventures however. The crew become the owners of a nanny-goat which they aptly name Nana; very useful when it comes to providing nourishment for the babe. Spoons the cook turns his hand to stitching nappies and other baby attire; and Red Bart the bosun even makes the infant a toy squid from a pair of old gloves.

None of your stereotypical pirates these.
As time passes and the babe, now named Isla, becomes mobile, the pirates, bothered by their lack of piratical action, resolve to plunder the next ship they spy. They think better of their plan though, when they discover the crew is all women.
Then an enormous sea monster looms up from the deep. The crew fear for their ship and their lives; and it’s Isla who saves the day with a truly selfless deed.
Thereafter, she’s recognised as “a true Pirate Baby” with a dazzling piratical future to look forward to.
No pirate crew is really complete without a parrot and a cat; these vital bit parts are admirably played here by McSquark and ship’s moggy, Plunderpuss.
Who better than Ros Asquith to bring out the humour of Mary Hoffman’s salty story? Awash with chucklesome details, her jaunty, swashbuckling scenes are set fair to create a splash with landlubbers young and not so young. A real treasure.

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Salty Dogs

Salty Dogs
Matty Long
Oxford University

Matty Long packed plenty into his Magic Forest picture books; now he turns his creative attention to pirates and once again the result is full of fun and frenzy.
Let’s meet the Salty Dogs: there’s Captain Fifi, super strong first mate, Barker, Mylo, the crew’s official watchdog, the rather excitable Sherman; Stewart the swordsdog extraordinaire – so he claims; Pug, the questionable cook and last but not least, Horatio Pawsworth 111, head of grooming. They however are not the only crew to be sailing the high seas in search of treasure; there are also The Green Shell Gang, The Crazy Horn Crew, The Feathered Furies and The Sea Monkeys – all forces to be reckoned with.
As the Salty Dogs sail towards Crossbone Island to unearth their long-buried treasure, they manage to get the better of the first three of their enemies; but then, they find themselves facing the mighty galleon the Scoundrel and its crew the dreaded Sea Monkeys.

It seems as though those Salty Dogs are in for some BIG trouble when the Scoundrel’s captain gives the order to fire the cannons.
Then it’s a case of sink or swim – doggy paddle style – as fast as they can to claim what is rightfully theirs.

But what exactly is this treasure that both crews are ready to go head to head over?
This crazy tale is absolutely brimming over with suitably daft details, speech bubbles and piratical humour. Readers will want to linger over every spread relishing the irresistible buccaneering bounties.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Leaky Story / The Pirate Craft Book

The Leaky Story
Devon Sillett and Anil Tortop
EK Books
On a shelf sits a row of books; books waiting to be read, not left untouched gathering dust and feeling unloved. One particular book though has a mind of its own. So powerful is its longing to attract attention that it starts to swell,

and drip. The drips become a trickle, then a series of plops until it spills down into wonderfully sploshy puddles on J.J’s living room floor. And thus begins an amazing adventure populated by J.J., his sceptical parents,

sea creatures and a dastardly pirate crew. The battle, both verbal and physical, between the Blossoms and the pirates is wonderfully funny; and, when a kraken appears, woefully waterlogged and a tad uproarious.
Finally though, the whole crazy episode appears to have run its course: the creatures shrink and the water begins to recede.

As J.J.’s world becomes increasingly saturated with salty brine, Anil Tortop’s scenes offer all manner of highly colourful perspectives on Sillett’s surreal story.
What a wonderful way to engender an enthusiasm for books in young listeners, as well as to further the development of their imagination.

On the topic of pirates is:

The Pirate Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Books
Subtitled ’15 things a pirate can’t do without’, this contains piratical projects aplenty for would-be sea dogs. There are clothes – the full gear including eye-patch and hat complete with monogram, buccaneer boots based on a pair of old wellies, a waistcoat, (best worn with stripy T-shirt) and a belt and cutlass to make.
All self-respecting pirates have a parrot on their shoulder, so there are step-by-step instructions to make a felt one, either stitching it together by hand or by machine. A chest in which to stash all the treasure is another requirement and the one herein is made using an old shoe-box; and to find the treasure, a map is most likely needed; so here we have instructions to make one from felt.
Once you’ve got all these things, a pirate party might be fun so there’s a page of ideas for that, and another giving a recipe for a yummy chocolate treasure chest cake. Basic templates for many of the items are provided on the final three pages. None of the projects is particularly difficult, though many would require supervision. Avast me’arties: what are you waiting for?

I’ve signed the charter  

Sunk!

Sunk!
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Yet another Biddulph bobby-dazzler and it comes in the form of a second Penguin Blue (from Blown Away) adventure.
Donning pirate gear, Penguin Blue, along with his penguin pals, Jeff and Flo, and polar bear, Clive, set out, armed with a map, on a nautical treasure-seeking trip.

Pretty soon though, they find themselves in trouble and have to abandon ship.

The result being, they land up on a tiny island and come face-to-face with an old sea dog who seems eager to make their acquaintance: “My name is Captain Walker Plank. / Been stuck here since my galleon sank.” The very galleon that Blue and his piratical pals had recently discovered on the ocean bed. Are they all to be stuck on the same tiny island now? Of course not: Blue knows just what’s needed …

Then, lo and behold (cue audience join in) “THAR SHE BLOWS!” … Off they go, and it’s homeward bound, with something much more precious than that gold they’ve bagged.

I’ll unreservedly second that final ‘Fun times with/ buddies, new and old. // That’s treasure worth/ much more than gold.‘ comment as the pals feast their eyes upon their wonderful new play equipment.
A deliciously swashbuckling, rhyming saga, dazzlingly illustrated and with Biddulph’s signature style design brilliance. Treasure indeed. What more can a story reader ask for?
A must for the family bookshelf; ditto, anyone who works with young children.

I’ve signed the charter 

A Minibeast Bop & A Crunching Munching Pirate

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Twist and Hop Minibeast Bop
Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees
Orchard Books
Come, come, come with me, to the stump of a fallen tree, there’s something there you really must see: minibeasts both large and small, are gathering to have a ball. Actually it’s a bop but hey, it’s loads of fun and you’re sure to see tiny creatures in all their glory gathering to dance till they drop. There are ants, shiny-shelled beetles, slithery slugs, head-turning ladybirds and dazzling butterflies to wow us all.

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But, as the band strikes up and the dancing starts, someone is notable by their absence: snail is missing all the wiggly rumba, cha-cha-cha and jittery jiving fun. Will he arrive before the final grand boogie? Suddenly from the rim there comes ‘a RUMBLING sound’ … and ‘a rolling rock that SHAKES the ground’; now what could that be?

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WHOPPEE!! It’s that slow-coach at last and he’s about to prove himself …

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Wonderfully exuberant rhythmic, rhyming fun: you really must join the dance-along, shout-along, clap-along romp BOP composed by Tony Mitton, master of rhyme, and depicted by Parker-Rees in wonderfully upbeat style.
Wherever you are home or school, your feet just won’t be able to keep from moving; for sheer exuberance, it’s hard to beat.

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Munch, Crunch, Pirate Lunch!
John Kelly
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Pirate leader, Heartless Bart is a pretty fearsome-looking character and when he discovers that one more of his crew has been consumed by the Beastly Pirates, he is determined to take on his dastardly enemies, and has an evil plan up his sleeve to boot. A few days later the ‘good ship’ Beastly Pirate looms into view and this cry is heard “A Jolly Roger! Dead ahead! It’s time for dinner. Beastlies. GET THE OVEN ON!” When the Beastlies have made their capture, it seems they might have bitten off more than they can chew for who should leap aboard their vessel but …

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and he’s making a challenge rightaway: “I’ve come to end the terror of your culinary reign. You’ve had your last pirate repast. You shan’t eat us again.
A fearful battle ensues with charging, biting, whacking and worse but nothing is a match for Bart, not even the unleashing of a cannon ball …

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As Snapper and Bart are about to embark on a frontal attack, there’s a thunder crack and a storm blows up. The two assailants fight tooth and nail and it begins to look as though Bart might just be the victor: then down comes a huge iron hook and up goes a certain metal-clad bully and down comes a thunderbolt – one hundred thousand volts of it.
To discover who is finally victorious, you’ll need to beg, borrow, or preferably buy a copy of this mock-scary story and read it for yourself but here’s a clue …

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Told in appropriately rollicking rhyme, with a bunch of deliciously hideous-looking characters engaging in alarming and awful antics, this is likely to send shivers of delight down the spines of young audiences and have them cheering at the finale.

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A Princess Tale and A Fairy One

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You Can’t Scare a Princess
Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic
Don’t be beguiled by the candyfloss pink shiny cover on this one: young Princess Spaghetti, despite her mass of blond curls and her fussy, frilly pink attire, is far from the shy retiring damsel in distress, kind of princess. Oh no: this young miss is one gutsy girl who shows no fear when her father, King Cupcake, gets himself captured by the meanest, baddest pirates in the whole wide world, led by none other than Captain Waffle.

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Now Captain Waffle might boast about being the terror of the high seas, but he may well have more than met his match in our young princess. She certainly leads the whole pirate crew a merry dance as she has them tunnelling deep down underground before they discover their search has been in vain; whereupon they are reduced to wailing wrecks …

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Bright and bold, she might be; but our young heroine is also fun loving and forgiving and generous, all of which attributes she calls into play in the final scenes as she serves up some playful offerings

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to the pirate crew – a motely bunch whose hard exteriors aren’t quite all they’re cracked up to be.
On the subject of those pirates, Sarah McIntyre’s portrayals of same are a treat: take that super cool lady pirate; isn’t she just brilliant …

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And the moles in her digging scene are delightfully dotty …

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You might want to follow the antics of the palace cat and the pirates’ parrot too: the endpapers are specially devoted to that pair.
Exuberant and decidedly silly, spring instantly to mind when it comes to this one: It’s likely to appeal to all youngsters who have a sense of fun and adventure, particularly those who like a tale where things aren’t quite as one might expect.

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Fairy Felicity’s Moonlight Adventure
Alison Murray
Nosy Crow
Fairy Felicity discovers a letter left at her door one summer’s night, a letter instructing her to ‘Follow the silvery snail. You’ll find a surprise at the end of the trail!’ And follow it she does as it weaves and zigzags across the foliage, around a spider’s web, between the moonlit paving stones …

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through a greenhouse, past the beehives in the orchard …

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across the lilypads until, at the end of the garden, she and the various minibeasts Felicity has encountered on the way, arrive at a door in the wall. It’s a door with a gap through which the snail instructs her to enter and then, there before her, is the promised surprise.

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Young children – mostly girls I suspect – will delight in tracing the sparkly tactile trail as it meanders over the pages of this gentle rhyming story and having done so will want to retrace their steps to explore the details in Alison Murray’s nocturnal world.

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Captain Falsebeard in A Very Fishy Tale & another salty story

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Captain Falsebeard in a Very Fishy Tale
Fred Blunt
Puffin Books pbk
The fine detail in this one is awesome and truly hilarious in parts. Take for instance the sight of all those evil-looking parrots launching their aeronautical attack (of which more later).
The story tells of two pirates bold, fearsome and sworn deadly enemies, Captain Falsebeard and Admiral Swinetoes by name. For over a decade these pirates have searched the briny blue looking for the Crossbone Treasure and now finally, one of the pair, Falsebeard has it in his clutches and, when we meet him is about to stash the loot safely aboard his ship, the Pretty Polly and partake of a celebratory fishy supper. First though, there’s to be a fish-off competition to catch a creature worthy of the cap’n’s table.
Lines are duly cast and with the competitors concentrating on the task in hand, none of them notices the watchful parrot observer close by.

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This wily creature flies back to the Killjoy to report his discoveries to Admiral Swinetoes, who as you can imagine, is none too impressed. But a plan is quickly set in motion.
Not long after, back aboard the Pretty Polly a sizeable catch is landed and it’s something of a surprise

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and a totally beguiling one.
When Falsebeard discovers the nature of the hoodwinking, an even more cunning plan is ignominiously thrust upon him – or rather before him. One that involves the unleashing of a truly deadly weapon (which is where we came in).

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But does Captain Falsebeard retrieve his plunder?

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Well that would be telling wouldn’t it?
A wonderful rib-tickling yarn of the saltiest variety that will have your audiences calling out for more and demanding opportunities to pore over the individual frames and full pages scenes. Welcome to the REAL picture book scene Fred Blunt: a superbly swashbuckling debut.
Miss this at your peril me ’arties!

Also with a marine theme is

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Mr Benn Diver
Based on the TV series by David McKee
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Herein Mr B. visits the costume shop and finds himself part of an adventure involving rival submarine crews searching for a sea monster, a mermaid seeking a special present for King Neptune’s birthday and a cunning trick to ensure the king is left in peace to enjoy his birthday celebrations with his pet monster. It certainly kept a lively group of 5s to 7s involved throughout and wanting more.

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Tinies and Monsters

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Very Little Red Riding Hood
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
David Fickling Books
With Red Teddy in hand and blanket, tea-set and a box of cakes safely stowed in her pull along bag, Very Little Red Riding Hood sets out to her Grandmama’s for a sleepover. Before long, what should she meet but a Wolf. “A Foxie!” she cries in delight giving him a big hug. More than a little put out at her lack of fear and her refusal to give him a cake, the Wolf suggests gathering a bouquet for Grandmama. Red – insists our feisty young heroine, inviting ‘Foxie’ to a game of chase all the way to Grandmama’s and a ‘cuppatea’ when they get there. But is this a step too far? Well, there’s a rib-tickling ending but if you want to find out what happens, then get your hands on this sweetly funny variation of the traditional story.
With her toddler talk and winning smile, Very Little Red Riding Hood is an absolute charmer.

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Rosa and Nina sharing Little Red’s exploits

The end papers show the route she took to her Grandmama’s house but also a number of other homes occupied by ‘Very Little’ fairy tale characters. Is this then the start of a series? I do hope so. Certainly this first time collaboration between Heapy and Heap is a whole heap of fun.
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The Tiny King
Taro Miura
Walker Books
In a castle far away lived a king. But the castle was very, very big and the king was a very, very Tiny King. The Tiny King had a big army and a big, big table for his meals but delicious food isn’t much fun if you’re all alone. It’s a good thing then, that the Tiny King fell head over heels in love with a princess, albeit a Big Princess and she agreed to be his wife. Before long, the Tiny King and the Big Queen had lots of children and what seemed like a very big castle for one Tiny King now felt just right with ten children playing and laughing the whole day.
Of course, big families mean lots of sharing: sharing meals, sharing the space on the big white horse’s back and sharing a riotous bath time; and what comes of sharing? Happiness; certainly that’s so in the case of the Tiny King.
Japanese artist and author, Taro Muira uses precision, patterned cut-outs in bold, bright colours and white, to construct simple shaped collage scenes, which stand out dramatically against flat black backgrounds. These scenes remind me of scenes from young children’s small world and construction play.

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Told in a straightforward manner, this simple neo fairy tale is a delight to share with under fives.
(Quite apart from the story, there is a wealth of learning opportunities here: talking about sharing, counting, identifying shapes, mathematical language and concepts relating to size, pattern making, block play, collage and small world castle play.)
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Upside Down Babies
Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds
Andersen Press
There is a lovely twist at the end of this funny rhyming tale of a world turned upside down when ‘the earth went blue and the sky went brown.’ On this fateful topsy-turvy day, all the baby animals find themselves with the wrong mothers. What is Mummy Camel to do when confronted with a baby Polar Bear in the middle of the desert and baby Rooster’s dawn greeting of “Cock-a doodle-dee” definitely does not go down well with a sleepy Mummy Owl trying to get some shut eye in her tree.
With its bold, bright, wonderfully expressive pictures of the consternation all round, and a text that trips off the tongue, this is one to share  with the under sixes and will prompt many an encore to the huge enjoyment of readers and listeners alike.
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Enormouse
Angie Morgan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Enormouse was big; much, much bigger than all the other mice in Mouse House. But being big had its advantages. Enormouse could lift REALLY heavy cheese, reach high up things and give lifts to tired-legged little mice. One day while out exploring he and his best friend Tinymouse find a large book with pictures of furry animals. That’s when Tinymouse concludes that his pal is actually A RAT. How the other mice laugh at poor Enormouse. Off he goes to find a new home with the rats but, what a shock he gets on arriving at ‘Rats’ House’; there’s mess everywhere. His offer to clean up is laughed at and once again Enormouse feels at odds with his housemates. In the meantime, his mouse friends have seen the error of their ways and set off in the hope of bringing their absent friend back home. But it’s now dark and they don’t know where to go…
From the mouse photo portrait endpapers, every turn of the page brings much to talk about and explore in the mixed media illustrations. The squalor of the rats’ house is truly disgusting with the grubby rodents lolling amongst half eaten fruit, discarded chips, over-turned cans, fish bones, filth and flies. You can almost smell the pong.

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Rosa couldn’t resist coming to see what we were so disgusted at.

The story too offers plenty of food for thought with its themes of not judging by appearances, self-belief, friendship and finding ones place in the world.
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Here Be Monsters
Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene
Macmillan Children’s Books
With the fiercest pirate crew and the fastest pirate ship, fearless Captain Cut-Throat is the meanest pirate to sail the seas. So, when he hears of an island strewn with giant gemstones he is determined to set sail straight away. His crew members though are far from happy; monsters are hiding in the mist, so the legend tells. At first all goes well but then they reach the MIST from which emanates all manner of alarming sounds. “Sail on!” commands the Captain and they do – into the swirling white. ‘ “Here be monsters!” cried the lookout…
‘ “Nonsense!” growled the Captain. “Monsters simply don’t exist.” ‘

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And so he maintains, heading on, unaware of the diminishing crew numbers, until an island comes into view. Once ashore, the penny finally drops but undaunted, the greedy Captain has his mind only on those giant jewels littering the shore. Oh foolish one!
Emmett’s riotous rollicking rhyme rattles along apace and when read aloud, it will have delighted audiences joining in with the repeated refrain of the fearless captain, as they see what he does not – his crew disappearing one by one.
Poly Bernatene draws his inspiration for the dastardly crew from the less attractive members of the animal kingdom with crow, rat, crocodile and blue-bottomed baboon all featuring. The almost filmic quality of his arresting illustrations adds to the dramatic impact of the story.
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