Delightfully Different Dilly

Delightfully Different Dilly
Elizabeth Dale and Liam Darcy
Happy Yak.

Meet Dilly the adorable baby penguin that’s born with a difference: she has only one leg and so doesn’t do things quite the same way as the other little penguins. Instead of waddling she hops and revels in so doing, impressing the other little ones who try to emulate her with only a modicum of success. However they all have fun together

and Dilly’s difference is totally accepted by the young penguin generation as well as her parents.

Not so the other parents however: set in their ways and with a narrow view of life, they upset Dilly by thoughtlessly telling her to stop being different.

Then Dilly gets an opportunity to demonstrate to all the adult penguins just how awesome her difference makes her: indeed she becomes a superhero and in so doing shows the entire colony how much diversity should be valued.

Despite its chilly setting, with its theme of acceptance, Elizabeth Dale’s is a warm-hearted story to share and discuss with little humans. Liam Darcy’s illustrations are splendidly expressive and gently humorous perfectly complementing the text.

The Moose Fairy

The Moose Fairy
Steve Smallman
Happy Yak

Moose has always yearned to be a fairy so he’s over the moon when he spots a sign advertising for new members of the Secret Fairy Club.

Having put together what he thinks is the most suitable gear and donned same, he feels totally fabulous. Until that is, he arrives at the venue and realises that he dwarfs all the other potential members, some of which are anything but welcoming. Not so however the head fairy who invites him to do the tests along with the other would-be joiners.

With admission to the club gained Moose needs to use the secret knock to open the door of the clubhouse but although he succeeds in so doing, the door is so tiny, he can’t fit through and the others merely shun him.

Poor Moose walks sadly away and takes a dip in the river, hoping to shrink himself. There he encounters Fox with whom he shares his problem and rather too much other information.

Back inside the clubhouse, some of the other creatures are now seeing the error of their ways when suddenly an unwanted intruder arrives and just manages to squeeze himself through the door.

Perhaps now Moose has an opportunity to show he’s a true fairy no matter his size. A fairy that lives up to the oath: ‘Fairies are kind to all creatures, / Fairies are not mean or bitter, / Fairies help others in trouble or need …’

With its mix of humour, hope and determination, Steve’s heartwarming story about being yourself and accepting others unconditionally no matter their appearance is a delight to share. Moose is a smashing character splendidly portrayed by the author whose quirky, vibrant illustrations are a mix of suitable silliness and sparkling enchantment. And I absolutely love Steve’s wise words in the dedication to his grandchildren.

A Celebration of Dads

My Dad
Susan Quinn and Marina Ruiz
Words & Pictures

A small child celebrates their dad, and the everyday activities – real and imaginary – that make him and the days they share together so special.

In Susan Quinn’s first person rhyming narrative the child presents such things as baking, growing vegetables, grocery shopping, going for picnics and bathing, moving through the different seasons and kinds of weather: ‘If it rains, we splash through puddles, / stomp through leaves of gold and red. / And gaze at a colourful rainbow, / big above my head.’

Marina Ruiz’s illustrations are suffused with the love shared between Dad and child, while her colour palette alters to reflect the changing seasons.

No matter the particular home situation of the young reader/listener and Dad this sensitively written book is one to enjoy together.

What is Daddy Going To Do?
Carly Madden and Juliana Perdomo
Words & Pictures

This is a fun lift the flap book for toddlers to enjoy, especially with a dad. It features diverse dads, one portrayed holding or wearing an item on the flap of each recto, while opposite the text says for instance, ‘Daddy has a stopwatch. / What is Daddy going to do?’ Having had a guess, little ones lift the large, sturdy flap to reveal the answer. (‘Start the family sports day!’)

In all there are six fun activities that Daddy does with his child or children – Fly to the moon, play in the forest, build a pirate ship, play in a band and make some noise, and read a bedtime story.

Little ones will want to join in with the repeat question and the (hidden) sounds, as well as lifting the flap (great for developing fine motor skills) and they’ll certainly enjoy exploring Juliana Perdomo’s bright, gently humorous illustrations and making predictions about the hidden activities.

Leslie Patricelli
Walker Books

The adorable one-haired baby is back to introduce Daddy. Said male parent is ‘so big and strong’, his ‘legs are so, so long.’ The infant then enjoys a playful time with Daddy – riding piggyback, trying to touch the sky, feeling his unshaven scratchy face, fleeing from a pretend monster, singing, wrestling till they need a rest.
At other times Dad is busy so baby helps him cook and clean and much more.

Our baby narrator also introduces several other dads pointing out that each one is different be that ‘Dressy … Messy … Bald … Hairy … Tall or Short’ before pointing out the ideal nature of ‘My Daddy’.

With its rhyming text and warm, lively scenes of baby and Daddy, this is a delight for the very youngest.

The Dinosaur Awards

The Dinosaur Awards
Barbara Taylor, illustrated by Stephen Collins
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Here’s a novel way of presenting dinosaurs to youngsters, not that a good many of them wouldn’t devour almost any dino. related book they can get their hands on, such is the seemingly never ending enthusiasm for these prehistoric creatures.

This one uses a combination of quirky, almost cartoonish digitally created illustrations and a wealth of intriguing facts about lots of different dino. species, some well known, others less so. I met a few for the first time herein, one being Majungasaurus that receives the ‘Cunning Cannibal Award and lived on Madagascar during the Cretaceous Period between 84 and 71 million years ago – assuredly a VERY scary predator.

Almost all the winners, be they famous or lesser known, are allocated three or four paragraphs, a captioned framed portrait of the award receiver along with its trophy or medal and one or more larger illustrations. There’s also a databank with name pronunciation and meaning, where it came from, diet, and size, plus in some instances a short humorous cartoon strip, in others some additional trivia.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what might make Ouranosaurus so special, not only did it have a ‘Super Sail’ along its back and tail, but also a duck-like beak and two bony bumps in front of its eyes.

Whereas Troodon’s claim to fame was its enormous eyes (about 5cm across), so it received the “What Big Eyes You Have’ award.

There’s even a ‘King of Rock ’N’ Roll medal and that goes to Cryolophosaurus (aka Elvisaurus’ on account of its funky head crest thought to resemble that 1950s quiff of the rock legend).

With plenty here to amuse and inform, this works either as a dip in and out book, or a longish read straight through, in which case you’ll encounter around fifty incredible prehistoric creatures from our planet’s past – worthy winners all.

Invented By Animals

Invented by Animals
Christiane Dorion and Gosia Herba
Wide Eyed Editions

Animals have pretty much taken over in this book – there’s even an introductory ‘Dear Reader’ letter typed by a frog pointing out that many techniques, designs and ‘superpowers’ used by animals have been the inspiration for human inventions or lie at the heart of future technological advances that are works in progress. Thereafter, it’s left to the various creatures to do the talking.

For instance there’s the shark whose skin was mimicked in super-fast swimwear that was ultimately banned after too many records were broken in the 2000 Olympics; the slug with sticky slime that is behind a super-strong glue that may well be used to mend wounds both inside and outside the human body.

Another creature helping humans in their exploration of post surgical wound closing is the prickly porcupine with its antiseptic-coated quills.

Readers also meet the super fast flying, amazingly clever hovering dragonfly whose abilities in the air are behind the invention of a little four-winged drone, as well as the woodpecker with its thick skull and shock-absorbing bones, the design of which is being copied by technologists endeavouring to make safer helmets for cyclists and others who need protective headwear.

The engaging manner through which Christiane Dorion conveys a wealth of STEM information will likely appeal to primary readers, as will Gosia Herba’s bright playful illustrations. There are lots of potential cross-curricular links: I particularly like the way many of the animals encourage child readers to think both creatively and critically in this fun exploration of biomimicry.

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids
Liz Lee Heinecke
Quarry Books (Quarto Knows)

Just right for the summer break especially, but for any time you can get outside, is this resource book of 52 ‘family-friendly’ experiments you can do with children in the garden or yard, the playground and the park.

The dozen units (each with 3-5 ‘labs’) are wide ranging and include exciting-sounding activities such as making ‘driveway frescoes’ on cornstarch (cornflour in the UK) and water using food colourings and tiny paint brushes or toothpicks to create the designs; that’s in the Picnic Table Chemistry unit. There’s a list of materials needed, ideas for extending the activity and an explanation of the science involved, as there is for each of the other ‘labs’.

I’m sure children will relish the prospect of engaging in some ‘Garden Hose Science’, trying such fun things as the ‘siphon roller coaster’ that starts with a water balloon fight.

Author and mother Liz Lee Heinecke covers ecology, earth science, botany, physics and zoology in her inspiring book. One hopes that doing some of the activities will show children that real hands-on science is fun and well worth spending their time on, just like those in the photographs included for each of the projects. (As she hails from the US, some of the names the author used will be unfamiliar to UK readers, for instance in the ‘Invertebrate Inspection’ unit,‘ pill bugs’ and ‘sow bugs’ are what we commonly call ‘woodlice’, though I think only the former can curl themselves up into a ball).

Art Workshop for Children / Play Make Create

Ideal for the long summer break as well as for Foundation Stage / KS1 staff during term time are these two terrific titles from Quarry Books that encourage and develop creativity in children:

Art Workshop for Children
Barbara Rucci and Betsy McKenna

Process, not product is what matters most in this bumper book of creative art projects for young children written by an author who runs art workshops for youngsters.

Nobody who has taught or worked in other capacities with foundation stage learners and those even younger could possibly disagree with the closing paragraph in Barbara Rucci’s introduction: “Let’s raise creative thinkers who explore their world, express their dreams, embrace differences, and never lose touch with their inner artist.’

Her premise is that art should be open-ended and child-led, ‘open-ended creativity … empowers our children to mess about, take risks and discover that they have good, original ideas.’
The first chapter is about setting up an art space after which come a series of workshops that are set out following a similar basic structure: Gather your materials – a bullet point list of what’s needed; a paragraph on how to Prepare your space;
then comes The process – again with bullet points; Observations; and finally Variations for next time – additional ideas for repeating the experience with some different materials or adding a degree of complexity for those with more experience.

Each of the 25 workshops has photographs of materials and children using them; and interspersed between workshops there are essays by Reggio Emilia-inspired educator, Betsy McKenna that will help those working with young children to reflect on what they are doing and saying if they want them to develop as confident, creative, problem-solving learners.

The materials required don’t need a great outlay – most projects can be done with paints, crayons, paper and card, plus the basic tools you’d find in a nursery setting and nothing is difficult to get hold of – maybe just a little effort as in the collaborative Branch Painting

that I particularly liked on account of its social nature.

What a boon for parents/carers of young children this will prove during long holidays especially.

The same is true of

Play – Make – Create
Meri Cherry

Subtitled ‘A Process-Art Handbook’ this one is based on a similar philosophical approach and has 40 ‘invitations’ to be creative and have fun in so doing.

The opening chapter sets the scene for good practice discussing the way to talk with children and how to store and present materials and then come the sequence of creative ‘Art Invitations’.

Whether it’s taking up an Invitation to Explore, such as experimenting with cotton swab oil painting; making and discovering the joys of ‘oobleck’ (cornstarch and water)

– it’s brilliant fun and one of the ten ‘Sensory-Based’ activities; or introducing the delights of the hammer as a creative tool used in the process of making a ‘Crazy Contraption’

included in the ‘On-going process-art activities Big Projects’ chapter, each project will surely spark the imagination. There are also collaborative activities that can be done with friends or family members.

Throughout the emphasis is on encouraging children to experiment and discover the potential of the materials, to make their own choices, employ critical thinking and problem solving to what they’re doing, thus helping to build self-confidence in their own creative potential; and of course, to enjoy what they’re doing.

Strongly recommended for parents, carers, teachers (the author has 20+ years of teaching experience) and anyone else who wants to provide enriching process art for children. (There’s a fair bit of science learning potential in there too though it’s never spelt out.) What are you waiting for? …

Everybody Counts


Everybody Counts
Kristin Roskifte (translated by Siän Mackie)
Wide Eyed Editions

This immersive book subtitled ‘A counting story from 0 to 7.5 billion’ is the 2019 winner of the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize. It’s easy to see why. It’s like no other counting book, that’s for sure and what is counted is people, people from 0 (no one) to 7.5 billion – the entire world.

The people are members of groups and many belong to two or more groups and so stories evolve around the characters, starting with a boy and his family making a total of 5.

You can follow these characters through the book, seeing how their various life stories intersect and diverge.

The narrator makes brief comments about people in their settings, for example in the classroom scene, of the 20 children ‘One of them is thinking about all the people who’ve lived before us. One of them has lost the class teddy bear. One of them is dreading football training. One of them will become prime minister.’

However, much is left unsaid so there are sufficient gaps for readers to fill and likely fill differently, on each reading.

Dive in, get lost in the pages, stop; study each one thoughtfully, and move on; eventually you’ll have met 2768 people. Then perhaps move back; the ‘spotting section’ at the end will certainly encourage you to do that.

Most importantly though, whatever other interpretations readers make, the indisputable messages that emerge are, that we are all part of one enormous, interconnected world group – the human race – and that each one of us has our own unique story, for as the title says, Everybody Counts.

Just imagine how many philosophy for children sessions might evolve if you start exploring this ingenious, visual festival of a book in the classroom.