Ten Horse Farm

Ten Horse Farm
Robert Sabuda
Walker Books

WOW! This truly is a work of art and superb craftsmanship. a pop-up extraordinaire from ace  paper-engineer, Robert Sabuda.

As each spread is opened readers are treated to an incredibly intricate equine scene that literally leaps in one direction or another from the page, and is captioned by a single word be that racing, resting, jumping, grazing,

playing, drinking

bucking, sharing, or pulling. And all that happens down on Ten Horse Farm, a place inhabited by other animals too. Look very carefully and you’ll discover all the animal residents in the final scene.

There’s a dog that loves to race, a trio of playful kittens that leap on and over the resting horse; a rooster that’s somewhat startled by a jumping horse; a mischievous billy goat enjoying a tug of war with a dappled horse; ducks, a little grey mouse seemingly awed by a bucking bronco; and they all want to enjoy a ride courtesy of the good natured horse that pulls a cart.

For children and adults, it’s a magical experience from start to finish made all the more enjoyable by Sabuda’s rustic colour palette that complements the mood be it playful, quiet, energetic as well as the camaraderie permeating the whole.
Whether you’re a lover of horses, art or design, or awesome books, this will surely amaze and excite.

With Giving in Mind

Little Hazelnut
Anne-Florence Lemasson and Dominique Ehrhard
Old Barn Books

What a simply gorgeous presentation is this tale of a hazelnut dropped by squirrel …

and buried by a heavy snowfall.
Other woodland animals, furred and feathered, come and go but the nut remains undiscovered.
In the spring, a little tree shoot emerges – literally – and a sapling begins to develop: a little nut tree, no less.

Readers are taken on a journey through the changing seasons in this wonderfully crafted pop-up story. The limited colour palette and occasional patterned backgrounds are most effective and the paper-engineering superb.
A book to share, to treasure and to give.

Greatest Magical Stories
Chosen by Michael Morpurgo
Oxford University Press

Michael Morpurgo has selected a dozen magical tales from different parts of the world for this collection, the final one of which, Jack and the Beanstalk is his own retelling. This first person telling from Jack Spriggins aka ‘Poor Boy Jack’ is especially engaging for young listeners. Morpurgo also provides an introduction as well as an introductory paragraph to each story.
Ten illustrators have been used with Victoria Assanelli and Bee Willey having two tales each. Most arresting as far as I’m concerned are Ian Beck’s wonderful silhouettes for Adèle Geras’ rendition of The Pied Piper.

From Japan comes Yoshi the Stonecutter, retold by Becca Heddle and beautifully illustrated by Meg Hunt, the only non-European offering.
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk are ‘almost part of our DNA’ says Morpurgo in his introduction: they are universal.
Perhaps not a first collection but this read aloud volume is certainly one worth adding to a family bookshelf or primary classroom collection.
Not included in the above but certainly magical is:

Beauty and the Beast
illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova
Templar Publishing

To satisfy his youngest daughter’s wish, a merchant steals a rose from the garden of a hideous-looking beast and Beauty, to save her father’s life, goes in his place to the Beast’s palace, falls in love with him and well, you know the rest.
The classic fairy tale is retold in a truly beautiful rendition – a feat of paper-engineering and lavish, cut out illustrations by self-taught illustrator Dinara Mirtalipova.

She has created six multi-layered scenes by using three layers of paper cut to look 3D, so that each spread simply springs into life when the page is turned.
Magical!
I really had to exercise my powers of persuasion to get one listener to part with my copy after we’d shared it.

A Child’s Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Michael Foreman
Otter-Barry Books

I clearly remember my father reading Robert Louis Stevenson poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses on many occasions; most notably Rain. The Swing, From a Railway Carriage, Autumn Fires, Where Go the Boats? and my very favourite, Windy Nights (which I still know by heart).
Here’s a beautiful book of those same poems that were first published in 1885, and a century later illustrated by Michael Foreman, beautifully packaged with a foreword by Alexander McCall Smith for a new generation of listeners and readers.
For me Foreman is the perfect illustrator for the poems, his watercolours imbuing them with a sense of timelessness and innocence. One for the family bookshelf.

Space Adventure Activity Book
illustrated by Jen Alliston
Button Books

There’s plenty to engage young children during the long winter evenings in this space-themed activity book. There are things to count, to colour and to make; plenty of puzzles, wordsearches and more, plus 4 pages of stickers. All you need are pens, pencils, scissors, a paper plate or so, a couple of sponges and 2 rubber bands (to convert your shoes to moon boots) and some basic ingredients for the Stellar Cakes (plus the help of an adult).
With 60 pages of spacey fun, this should help fill a fair few hours of darkness.

Daydreams and Night Dreams

When I Grow Up
Tim Minchin and Steve Antony
Scholastic

Inspired by Tim Minchin’s song of the same name from Matilda the Musical, this book takes a (mostly) light-hearted look from a child’s viewpoint, at what it’s like to be an adult.
Of course, you’ll need to know the answers to a great many questions and that means being smart.
But think of being able to ‘eat sweets every day’,

‘go to bed late every night’, get up with the sun and watch endless cartoons without a care.
Life isn’t all roses though; there are heavy things to ‘haul around’ and creatures that lurk beneath the bed to fight with.

But all that’s offset by daily treats, playful opportunities in abundance …

and days spent lying in the sun without damaging the skin – we wish!
Is that what we grown-ups really do? Hmm …
Steve Antony surely has made adulthood look like a ball, even the less desirable activities; and those young narrators of his are boundless energy personified.

One Moonlit Night
Zanna Davidson and Seo Kim
Templar Publishing

Through a prose poem and amazing pop-ups we share in a little girl’s magical dream of an amazing adventure wherein she flies through the star-filled sky aback a dragon, encountering three-headed giants, trolls and ogres …

before, swathed in clouds, invoking her very own dragon spell.
Magical pop-out scenes of a journey through swirling waters and inky skies make for a wondrous, just before bedtime book to share.

The World-Famous Magical Numbers & Peekaboo Wild

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The World-Famous Book of Magical Numbers
Sarah Goodreau
Big Picture Press
Wow! This is a bobby-dazzler. Superbly designed in a gloriously retro, vintage style, it’s a truly magical presentation of numbers (0 to 0), with opportunities for counting aplenty, rendered in bold, bright colours and a myriad of patterns, by 1 master magician …

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(and, of course, Sarah Goodreau) You’ll be astounded for sure!
There’s excitement on every page: prestidigitation abounds as we see sleights of hand, grand illusions and out-of-this world wizardry all done through ingenious paper-engineering that employs flaps …

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tab-pulls, pop-ups …

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and a truly splendiferous grand finale …

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which is followed by a farewell from our magician extraordinaire. – when he makes an appearance that is …

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It’s as well this whole performance is sturdily constructed to stand up to the enthusiastic handling and countless re-reads it’s absolutely bound to receive: oh yes – youngsters may well improve their counting skills too, thanks to this show-stopping treat of a book.

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Peekaboo WILD
Walker Entertainment
The very young can delight in a playful Peekaboo game (based on The Peekaboo Wild app.) First stop is the jungle, where we’re asked who lives therein and by lifting the flap we discover two of the inhabitants. The question and answer format continues with ‘Who else lives there?’ and two more animals hide beneath the flaps.
The second destination is the bush wherein kangaroos, a platypus, an emu and a koala have hidden themselves among the foliage. We move on to the sunny savannah, which has two spreads and herein are lions, a giraffe and a zebra …

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Jagged ice peaks greet us in the Arctic, home to all these beauties …

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Then it’s on to a bamboo forest home to two species of panda: the black and white one and a red panda as well as a tiger and a pangolin.
The two final spreads show first, a pictorial world map setting the animals in their continents and on the second, each habitat has a flap under which its respective inhabitants are hidden.
Through an enjoyable shared experience babies can learn so much about the animals in this board book; but even more important is the ‘books are fun’ message this will convey. In addition older siblings just starting to read can demonstrate their developing skill by reading it to a baby brother or sister.

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Winter/A Bird Like Himself

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Winter
David A. Carter
Abrams & Chronicle
This small pop-up is full of wintry delights. As the sun goes down and snow begins to fall one chilly day, we see a white-tailed deer and follow deer tracks across the white covering and there’s a cardinal perching in a pine tree. Turn the page and make the snowflakes dance in the air, the snow geese too, take to the air while from behind a fir tree peeps a bear…

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yes there’s something to see at every level on each spread thereafter.
Turn over once again: holly berries deck the tree, a stoat stands stark with its tail aloft, a snowshoe hare hops by and mice are snuggling together to keep warm.
Next we see long-eared owls perching on an oak, long-tailed weasels as they are herein named, face us looking startled and red foxes are huddling from the cold (look behind the sandstone).

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Look on the next moonlit spread and find Orion above, a bobcat, snowberries glowing and creatures peeking and finally …

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Everything is still, everything is waiting under the milky way …

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One year old Jenson investigating the delights of WINTER

Some of the creatures are American but this adds interest for non-US readers rather than detracting from the charm of the book.

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A Bird Like Himself
Anahita Teymorian
Tiny Owl Publishing
When a chick emerges from a seemingly parentless egg, the animals living around take on the role of carers.

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They do their very best and if nothing else they give their new infant plenty of love.

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With such a variety of carers though, it’s not surprising that Baby – so called because he became everyone’s baby – has something of an identity crisis.
But with the winter fast approaching, it’s time for birds like Baby to be flying south to warmer climes and try as they might, none of the animals is able to demonstrate the techniques of flying …

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So what will be the fate of Baby who as yet isn’t really like those other birds? Can he finally spread those wings of his and take flight? Perhaps, with the help of a special friend …

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With its inherent themes of acceptance, parenting and caring, friendship and finding a place to fit in, this lovely book will resonate with adults as well as the many children I hope it will be shared with especially  with refugees from Syria being made to feel welcome in the UK as I write.
Author/illustrator Anahita Teymorian’s densely daubed illustrations are sheer delight. I absolutely love the final double spread whereon is revealed the significance of the chequer board design that appears on every spread – brilliant!

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