Duck & Penguin Are Not Friends

Duck & Penguin Are Not Friends
Julia Woolf
Andersen Press

Betty and Maud are best friends; they love to play together. Each has a soft toy: Betty’s is Duck, Maud’s is Penguin. The girls are convinced their soft toys are equally friendly, sharing a love of their favourite human activities, swinging, sand play,

baking, painting and playing with ‘Itty-bitty babies’.

So involved are the girls in their own activities however, that they fail to notice what’s going on between Duck and Penguin.

Then the girls leave their toys alone while they go and fetch their baby bottles.

Left to their own devices Duck and Penguin indulge themselves in all the activities they’d previously tolerated with extreme reluctance and waywardness. This time however, because they’ve chosen so to do, swinging, sandcastle construction, baking and painting are fun for the two toys.

After all, who wants to have activities thrust upon them?

I love how the toys look even more ‘loved’ or shall we say, the worse for wear, by the end of the day; I love too the playful onomatopoeia, that relating to the toys contrasting nicely with the girls’ at times; and Julia Woolf’s energetic, wonderfully expressive illustrations will surely make little humans giggle, especially at the toys’ antics.

Alphonse, There’s Mud On The Ceiling

Alphonse, There’s Mud On The Ceiling!
Daisy Hurst
Walker Books

The cast from Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do and I Do Not Like Books Any More! are back in another smashing story.

Natalie, Alphonse and family reside in a flat, on the seventh floor. The child monsters love driving their double-decker bed, playing around their large green chair, tending their sunflowers and performing somersaults down the hall and generally junglifying their surroundings until Natalie cries out “OW, ALPHONSE, you’re STANDING ON ME… and there’s MUD on the CEILING!

At this point Dad intervenes pointing out that their shenanigans are unsuitable indoor play. Natalie (who has an answer for everything) counters this with complaints about their lack of a wild jungle garden with a tent for sleeping in.

Eventually Natalie decides the park is where she want to be – alone.

Off she goes and there her explorations lead her to a bush with a hole wherein she finds …

Then, guess who arrives on the scene. A truce is called and a deal struck involving sausages and blackberries, and at Natalie’s insistence, a bundle of sticks.

Turns out there’s more than one place where you can be wild in the jungle, camping and tucking in to tea. Perhaps even sleeping too.

Another acutely observed, vibrantly illustrated tale from Daisy Hurst; these stories go from strength to strength. Everything about this book is quite simply brilliant.

I suspect adult sharers will adore it as much as the youngsters they read it with; this reviewer surely did.

Perilous Play: Game of Stones / Rocket Shoes

Game of Stones
Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing

Young Pod of Stone Underpants fame is back and he’s in inventive mode once more.
Now he wants to make a ‘whizzy’ game to amuse his younger brother, Hinge.
His first creation is certainly that but there appears to be a design fault …

and the ‘Yow-Yow’ ends up being banned by their dad.
Back to the drawing board: more chiselling, sawing and hammering, and the result is ‘Crackit’.

That meets the same fate as Pod’s previous effort – a paternal ban.
His third attempt looks like a winner but the boys must find somewhere away from their parents to use it, and for this Pod calls on the assistance of their friends, both animal and human. What on earth could they be moving all those huge blocks of stone for?
A playful tale, some groan worthy puns, not least being the book’s title and suitably crazy scenes of Stone Age carry-ons make for another diverting drama from Pod’s creators.

Rocket Shoes
Sharon Skinner and Ward Jenkins
Sterling

When is it right to break the rules? Essentially it’s a philosophical question that might well be explored in a classroom community of enquiry session.
It’s the one young José must work out when his neighbour, who has been instrumental in getting his and the other children’s amazing rocket shoes banned, is in great danger.
The boy is sitting outside pondering on the aeronautical acrobatics he and his friends have enjoyed …

when a snow storm suddenly engulfs Mrs Greg who is outside searching for her missing cat.
Should he, or should he not get out his forbidden rocket shoes and whizz to her aid?

To reveal what happens would spoil the story, so I’ll just say, all ends highly satisfactorily for everyone in town …
Told through Sharon Skinner’s whizzy rhyme and Ward Jenkins zippy, cartoonish digital illustrations, this will appeal especially to those who like to break the rules from time to time.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Quiet Crocodile / Hey Willy, See the Pyramids

The Quiet Crocodile
Natacha Andriamirado and Delphine Renon
Princeton Architectural Press
Fossil the crocodile is a lover of peace and quiet, preferring to be alone and away from hustle and bustle. He has however, a ‘few friends’ so we’re told although the endpapers in particular, belie this: some two dozen named pals large and small, (each with a colour-coded dot so we can keep track of them) line up thereon, seemingly ready to move.
And move is just what they do, one by one, across the pages of the book and find a place upon Fossil’s back until he resembles first an outsized sofa and then a climbing frame or a circus balancing act as the animals pile precariously up on his length.

All the while Fossil has a large grin on his face and despite our being assured that ‘He’s afraid of scaring his friends’ sceptical readers may be beginning to doubt that.
Things take something of a turn textually however when our narrator informs, ‘… as everybody knows, they’re fierce. Even in books!’ Hmm!
Are all his friends right in issuing that “Come and play with us!” invitation? And did anything accompany that hat of Piggy’s into his grinning mouth?

Surely he’d never even consider eating any of his friends, or would he?
Irony and wry humour abound in Andriamirado’s text which, accompanied by Renon’s stylised illustrations of intricately detailed animal characters, is likely to please those with a penchant for the quirky and open-ended.

Hey Willy, See the Pyramids
Maira Kalman
New York Review of Books
This is a re-issue of an early Kalman book and quirky it surely is.
Young Alexander has trouble falling asleep and asks his elder sister Lulu to tell him stories: a million are requested but she agrees to five and ends up by telling eleven. They’re all very short – flash fiction really – and therein she mixes the familiar with the downright bizarre and surreal.
One tells of a dog that wants to live in Paris and be a poet; another features a green-faced scientist.

There are crazy parties and fish flying into the sky.
Punctuating the stories, in white lettering printed on black, are brief conversations between sister and brother further adding to the overall strangeness of the book.
Maira Kalman has, seemingly, plumbed the depths of her imagination for both narrative and illustrations of this far out offering. It’s not for the very young, certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but worth a look if you’re into the highly unusual in picture books.

Play

Play
Jez Alborough
Walker Books
The adorable Bobo is back and he’s in defiant mood. Mummy chimp declares it’s bedtime and the little chimp is far from ready to settle down for the night. The sun’s still bright, his friends are still up and ready to play; and play is exactly what Bobo wants to do.

Being Bobo he does …

Until Mummy discovers what he’s up to, and back into bed goes Bobo. Not for long however: there’s plenty of go in the young chimp yet and Turtle is on hand for some watery fun. But as the sun sinks over the hill, Turtle decides it’s time to sleep, which leaves Bobo alone and facing …

He does what most infants would in that situation: hollers ‘Mummy’ for all he’s worth.
Fortunately another of his pals is still around and willing to deliver the little chimp safely home to an extremely anxious parent. There’s no argument about ‘bed time’ now. In fact it’s Bobo himself who says the words and in no time at all they’re both snuggled up for the night.
Next morning at sunrise, who should be ready and waiting for another day’s fun and games but all his jungle pals..
Following on from Hug, Tall and Yes, Jez Alborough has created a celebration of play and friendship. Once again, with very few words, he fashions a wonderful drama that will not only be a winner with existing Bobo fans, but will gain him a host of new would-be playmates.
Brilliant for developing visual literacy, encouraging talk, and perfect for beginning readers; but most important, it’s enormous fun.

I’ve signed the charter  

My Sister is Bigger than Me

My Sister is Bigger than Me
Kate Maryon and Lisa Stubbs
Jonathan Cape
In Kate Maryon’s bouncy, rhyming narrative, three-year old Ava tells what it’s like being little sister to Gracie who is almost three years older. Being the elder sibling, gives, Gracie, so she thinks, the upper hand when it comes to deciding what to play, choosing roles and directing the action.

Poor Ava always ends up as the underdog being bossed around; she’s only in charge in her imaginary games, until suddenly, she decides enough is enough. Off she storms, up to her room where as a witch, she begins mixing up some magic; but before long who should burst in and take over once again.
Poor Ava, it’s back to in-her-mind games to get the upper hand.

In an instant though, events take a turn as the two spy a pack of hungry wolves lurking, and it’s time for them to make a dash for safety together …

Lisa Stubbs beautifully captures the changing dynamics of the children’s play as sibling rivalry is acted out through their games of make-believe; but most important, and over-riding all their actions, is that bond of sisterly love.
Her wonderfully patterned scenes of young children at play speak volumes.
Just the thing to share within families where there are two young sisters; or for early years story sessions after which I suspect there will some earnest sisterly discussions.

I’ve signed the charter  

Emma Jane’s Aeroplane / Ellie’s Magic Wellies

Emma Jane’s Aeroplane
Katie Howarth and Daniel Rieley
Templar Publisihng
We meet young aviator Emma Jane as she takes off into the night sky heading so it appears for a distant city with its shining lights. London is her first stop-off and approaching the London Eye in the rain, she spots a fox and takes it aboard.

Before long. ‘Up ahead is something bright – it’s a city’s shining lights …’ Paris is the next stop where having looped around the Eiffel Tower, Emma Jane spies on Notre Dame, a rooster and …’So Emma Jane in her aeroplane, / a fox who doesn’t like the rain, / and a rooster who crows wherever he goes / fly on.’ … towards Venice and thence New York, Beijing and Sydney.

By now the plane looks pretty full and it’s heading straight into a storm; a storm that pitches them right into the churning sea. Are the plane and its passengers, not to mention Emma Jane, destined to be lost at sea or do all those animals possess skills that can be called upon in their hour of need?
Let’s just say that all ends happily, with fond farewells as our pilot drops each of her new friends off in their home city before whizzing off once again …
Katie Howarth’s peppy rhyming tale of travel, significant sights, and friendship without boundaries zips along nicely and is fun to share, all the more so if time is given to linger over Daniel Rieley’s delectably droll illustrations be they spread, single page, double spread or vignette.

Ellie’s Magic Wellies
Amy Sparkes and Nick East
Egmont Publishing
I’ve yet to meet a young child who doesn’t love to splosh around in puddles; it’s certainly so with Ellie Pengelly who has just been given a shiny new pair of wellies by her Auntie Flo who has come to do a spot of child-minding while Ellie’s mum visits the dentist. Having donned her polka-dot winged wonders, off heads Ellie in search of some lovely splash-about in puddles. Having located a particularly large one she leaps in and as she does, gets the surprise of her life. What should appear, courtesy of Ellie’s new ‘magical wellies, but a creature introducing itself as a “Flibberty-Gibberty” – a Flipperty Gibberty out of its puddle just waiting to play.
And play they do; the F.G. seemingly having boundless energy.

(Not sure the creature should be encouraging young Ellie to do headstands though, thinks the yoga teacher in me).
Play over, the two go indoors for a spot of something to eat, or rather, that’s the intention but what happens is something quite different and extremely chaos making.
Can they get the house back to its former tidy state before mum’s return? That is the crucial question…

Perhaps so with a little help from those magical wellies of Ellie’s.
Amy Sparkes’ sparkling rhyming text combines beautifully with Nick East’s equally sparky illustrations to produce a lively read aloud that is likely to induce a whole lot of puddle jumping – ready steady SPLOSH!

I’ve signed the charter