Never Brush A Bear

Never Brush A Bear
Sam Hearn
Happy Yak

Young Herschel is a budding hair stylist, a coiffeur of creatures; as yet though he’s not brushed the hair of a bear, but despite warnings of the possibility it could result in his demise, Herschel is determined so to do. So, brush in hand, he goes into the woods where he eventually approaches a cave. Could this be the place to find what he seeks?

GRRRR! A ginormous wild bear is within though despite his dishevelled state, he’s not really very wild at all, rather he looks as though he could be friendly. Definitely up for some tonsorial treatment thinks Herschel starting with the creature’s arms, followed by his chin.

With his brush Herschel continues working around the bear’s body, aware of the likelihood of the occasional stinky part. What our stylist isn’t expecting however is what happens when his brush comes in contact with the ursine’s hirsute armpit…

The result is that both parties find themselves cascading downhill at breakneck speed only to end up on their bums somewhere decidedly damp and gunky. Time to start again my friend.

Despite the slightly clunky rhyme at times, with its bold, bright cartoonish style illustrations this whimsical tale of ambition and determination is huge fun; requests for re-reads will be likely after you share it with young children.

How Rude! / How Selfish! / How Messy!

How Rude!
How Selfish
How Messy!

Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec
Happy Yak

How superb! are both Clare’s words and Olivier Tallec’s pictures for the books in this series, each being told mainly through Dot and Duck’s dialogue.
In How Rude! Duck arrives at Dot’s for a tea party. From the start his thoughtless behaviour sabotages Dot’s every effort as he complains about the food and the drink, while Dot does her upmost to keep calm: one can see her frustration mount as her cheeks grow redder and redder until she decides to retaliate.

However, after apologies from both sides, all ends happily with smiles and evidence of an important lesson learned.

Another vital life-lesson for young children is brilliantly delivered in How Selfish! and now it’s Dot who starts off behaving in a problematic manner. First she destroys the flowers Duck is holding. Then claiming it’s her sword, she snatches the stick Duck has found, hopefully for a flag,. A squabble ensues with yellings of “Flag” and “Sword” and grabbings of said stick. Duck then tries a spot of negotiating: “Swap the flag for a rabbit?” to which Dot responds “That’s MY toy!”
Duck then suggests sharing: but clearly Dot’s notion of sharing doesn’t quite fit Duck’s bill.

Is there a way out of this stand-off? Yes there is, for Duck now delivers the most devastatingly powerful of childhood intentions, “I’m telling on you …”
There’s a rapid acquiescence from Dot that means Duck then has all the toys. Dot though has the stick/ flag but that’s not quite the end of this selfish, crazy contretemps. There are grumps on both sides and pretty soon, boredom. A compromise perhaps? … Definitely one to provoke in depth discussion this.

What to do when one person’s messiness is another person’s creativity: that dilemma is at the heart of How Messy! Now Duck and Dot are at the seaside and after a pancake breakfast, sally forth onto the beach to play. While Dot is carefully crafting, placing each item with the utmost precision, Duck gathers flotsam and jetsam and proceeds to make an octopus, which he proudly shows Dot. Totally unimpressed, she tells Duck he’s messy.

“ … It’s not mess …it’s art! I made it for you!” he tells her about his next piece of work and this looks as though it might just win Dot over until …

Now things are indeed pretty messy. Time for a think … followed by a clever piece of collaborative work.

But the best laid creations of Dot and Duck cannot compete with the forces of nature. Could a dip save the day for them both …

Vive la difference! say I.

With oodles of empathy and delightful humour, these books are pitch perfect for foundation stage settings, nurseries and families with young siblings. They’re absolutely certain to result in giggles aplenty and reflections on best how to treat other people.

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 World’s Most Pointless Animals: Or Are They?

The World’s Most Pointless Animals: Or Are They?
Philip Bunting
Happy Yak

Author/illustrator Philip Bunting presents an irreverent look at some of the world’s most weird and wonderful creatures that we’re fortunate (or sometimes less so) to share our planet with. Take leeches for instance: I don’t consider myself particularly fortunate to have to live with those (despite their use by doctors) but like all the other animals from axolotls to zooplankton included herein, these hugely successful sucking parasites have undergone adaptations that have enabled them to survive, indeed to thrive. And as the author says in his introduction ‘Each creature is an illustration of Darwinian evolution, and, every animal has a unique yet important role to play on our precious planet. I was amazed to read that a leech has 32 brains. But what does it use them for?


Let’s get right up close to some of the others then starting with the capuchin monkey (Cebus imitator renamed here ‘Peepee stinkipawas). These particular primates – the most intelligent of all known New World simian species –
use simple tools to procure foods they want to sink their teeth into. You certainly wouldn’t want to share their seeds or insects though, for the males make a habit of peeing on their hands and washing their feet in their urine. Yuck!

Seemingly the only raison d’être for Daddy longlegs (other than to scare some people silly) is to act as a ‘valuable source of food for birds on every continent, except Antarctica. WIth more than 15,000 species of these spindly-legged insects, that amounts to a vast number of satisfied birds.

Turning to ocean dwellers, jellyfish are hugely successful medusozoa, sorry ‘wibblious wobblious ouchii’ that are about 95% water. Apparently of the possible 300,000 species estimated by scientists, so far only 2,000 have been found including moon jellyfish that can clone themselves, and immortal jelly fish. The latter can reverse its life cycle reabsorbing its tentacles becoming a blob-like cyst again which then begins over … Awesome!

Bursting with facts presented in a manner that’s huge fun and highly accessible including quirky labelled illustrations – Bunting clearly enjoyed creating these, not least inventing daft new names for every creature included – this book has a more serious mission too; To celebrate the diversity of the animal kingdom and to remind us of the fragility of the ecosystems that together make up Planet Earth.

Give a child this book to get immersed in and you could put them on the path to becoming a zoologist. I’m off to see how many Lumbricus terrestris (aka Squiggleous wriggleous) I can spot brought up after the recent rain shower – I might even be able to make a clew – that, I learned from the spread featuring same, is the collective name for a group of earthworms.

Ceri & Deri: Pudding for Desert / A Little Bit of Courage

Ceri & Deri: Pudding for Desert
Max Low
Graffeg

Best friends Ceri and Deri have a particular penchant for all things sweet. Their favourite shopping places to visit in town are Delwen’s Domain of Desserts and Peredur’s Pudding Parlour, each of which offers delicacies they can’t resist.

Strangely though the shops are next to each other and thus far, relations between the two vendors has been amicable. Not so today though: as Ceri and Deri approach they hear an argument in full flow.

At first it’s only insults that fly back and forth as the friends attempt to get served; but pretty soon it’s a case of flying puds and hurtling desserts. Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by various other individuals who show up – D.I Nigel, followed by the mayor

and several others each of whom takes a side in the escalating drama.

Horrified at the waste of good food, Ceri and Deri leap skywards to catch some treats to pop in their mouths.

Can there possibly be a truce between the two sides before both establishments completely run out of goodies? Perhaps, if somebody (or somebodies) can think of a compromise …

As always the cat and dog duo offer some gentle (or in this case somewhat less gentle) learning concerning different ways of seeing along the way, but it never gets in the way of the fun story, illustrated in Max Low’s characteristic expressive, gently humorous colourful small town scenes.

A Little Bit of Courage
Claire Alexander
Happy Yak

This is my first encounter with the Ploofers though it’s their second story, and they’re learning to fly.

There’s one of their number though, a little one, that is feeling fearful and too scared to become part of this exciting new adventure. So will the others leave Little One behind on the ground? Of course not; that isn’t what friends do.

Back comes Toasty to have a chat and offer some words of encouragement to help Little One lose those jelly wobbles. With Toasty’s support, can Little summon up sufficient courage to take that vital leap?

A gentle look at fear, finding the courage to step out of your comfort zone, the importance of teamwork, as well as a celebration of difference Ploofer style.

Simply illustrated and told in a suitably conversational voice, Claire Alexander provides an empowering message for little ones and adults too.

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees
Moira Butterfield and Vivian Mineker
Words & Pictures

In this large format book you can learn all about the life of the domesticated honey bee and much more. The bee’s life cycle, anatomy,

life in a hive including the tasks undertaken by workers – cleaning, care of the bee nursery, making honey and wax, guard duty and finally, foraging for nectar and pollen outside; plus facts and figures about other species at home and abroad, honey thieves,

pollination, what bee keepers do and how to create a bee-friendly environment are all explained by our narrator worker guide, Buzzwing the honeybee.

There are also five bee tales from various parts of the world including Greece, India and Australia.

Vivian Mincer’s enticingly colourful, gently humorous child-friendly illustrations with Buzzwing’s invitation to spot various creatures hiding within many of the scenes, are likely to be pored over at length by young readers. Author, Moira Butterfield even invites budding poets to write their own bee poetry as did the character in the Indian tale she retells. Indeed, there are activities relating to each of the tales included.

The health of our natural ecosystems is intrinsically linked to the health of our bees (and other pollinators) but their numbers are in decline. Let’s hope this fascinating book will enthuse youngsters to do whatever they can to halt this potential catastrophe.

Altogether a super introduction to the world of bees.

When We Went Wild

When We Went Wild
Isabella Tree and Allira Tee
Ivy Kids

This is prize-winning author, conservationist and rewilder, Isabella Tree’s first book for children. Herein she describes what happens when farmers Nancy and Jake decide to convert their failing farm (the animals and even the trees look sad), and whereon they use chemicals for crop growing and machines for milking and harvesting, for something totally different – a haven for wildlife.

Nancy’s idea so to do means they can sell off all the machinery and pay off their debts. Then it’s a waiting game: soon the bare earth is covered in wild flowers, brambles and bushes,

and their animals now roaming free seem much happier.

Their neighbours though, are far from pleased and write to the local paper complaining about the messy vegetation spoiling their view.

Will Nancy and Jake have to abandon their plans and return to conventional technology-led, intensive farming? Happily not. When a storm and torrential rain hits the village everyone prepares for the worst as flash-flooding strikes across the country but that messy vegetation helps to slow and absorb the rainfall and the village is spared. A lesson learned thanks to a near disaster,

and soon everyone is going wild.

Allira Tee’s digital illustrations for this thought-provoking, important book are beautiful and from the alluring cover, every page full of engaging detail.

On the final spread, the author explains what rewilding actually is and talks a little about its importance and her own experience. (The book itself is sustainably produced).

Rosa Draws

Rosa Draws
Jordan Wray
Words & Pictures

Rosa is happiest when using her drawing pencils and letting her imagination run wild and that’s what this story is all about.

Seemingly her favourite subjects are animals, fairly ordinary ones, but what happens to them is anything but ordinary.

For when Rosa adorns her fuzzy black cat with a ‘RIDONKULOUS’ hat, it triggers an increasingly crazy concatenation of events involving a hat-eating bear with GLAM-U-LICIOUS long hair (yes the whole thing is recounted in rhyme with only the occasional slight creak).

Said bear has its hair sat upon by a moose that takes tea with a la-dee-dah goose and so on until the ants – a zillion of them – board a train and plunge Rose into darkness, cutting off her train of thought and completely stifling her imagination.

Only temporarily though, for the tugging on a light switch cord puts her back ‘on track’ and her ideas flow freely once more until suddenly who should arrive on the scene but Rosa’s mum.

Apologies are immediately forthcoming but it turns out that young Rosa isn’t the only one with an artistic bent …

Packed with zany details – look out for the peacock sporting jazzy socks – Wray’s illustrations will amuse both children and adults and the former will enjoy the invented words and the surprise finale.