The Way Home for Wolf

The Way Home for Wolf
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books

Fiercely independent, little wolfling Wilf considers himself big, strong and tough, so when it’s time for the wolves to find themselves a new cave, he’s eager to lead the way. “One day,” comes the response from the others.

Their journey through the snowy arctic tundra is a struggle for all members of the pack but despite his strong will, Wilf struggles to keep up finding the gap between himself and the adults growing ever larger until exhausted and out of breath, he loses his way in a blizzard. Too proud and indeed hoarse to howl for help he’s forced to spend the night alone beneath the stars.

Suddenly the ice beneath him shatters sending him cascading into the chill inky depths.

Rather than the end he fears, Wilf finds himself being rescued by a sea unicorn (narwhal) that takes him safely back to shore.
From there a host of other arctic animals, large and small, assist the little creature

until finally he’s reunited with his pack.

Thankful to all his rescuers, Wilf makes them a promise, “If ever I meet one who’s strayed off their track, / I’ll help them along by guiding them back.”

Wilf’s journey, both emotional and physical is truly testing, indeed too much for the young wolf to cope with alone.

Rachel Bright’s narrative style, at times poetic and at times matter-of-fact, allows young humans to come to an understanding that there are times when asking for help is exactly the right thing to do; and that team work is as important as going it alone, often more so.

Jim Field’s illustrations rendered in hues of indigo, white, cream, purple, silver and brown have a luminosity that invokes a sense of awe and wonder, making the arctic tundra a truly beautiful mystical place imbued with its own natural magic. I absolutely love the way the essence of the animals is shown in the aurora borealis both when Wilf is lost and when he’s safe once more.

A beautiful book to share and to return to, over and over.

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

The Squirrels Who Squabbled
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books

From the duo who gave us The Lion Inside and The Koala Who Could comes another winning story, this time featuring two greedy squirrels one of which has done the unthinkable –failed to collect food for his store – and consequently, with winter fast approaching, his cupboard is completely empty: that’s Spontaneous Cyril who lives his life firmly in the here and now.

Squirrel number two is ‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’. He’s a wily one and has already amassed a huge stockpile of goodies.
By the time Cyril realises his partying habits have put him in a bit of a plight, all that appears to be left is a single pine-cone. This potentially fruitful object might just save him from starvation but he’s not the only one with his eye on the main chance. Bruce too has set his sights on one final addition to his stash.

With this potential treat delicately lodged in the twist of a branch and two would-be gatherers scurrying madly up the tree trunk, things are not set to go well and before you can say ‘slow down’ the cone is dislodged from its niche in the spruce and has gone tumbling down the hill with the two adversaries in hot pursuit through the forest.

What follows is an out and out scrimmage between Cyril and Bruce over a single treasure, that must surely end badly, as the object of their desires cascades into the water and well, I won’t say where it ends up for fear of being a story-spoiler.

This is truly a cracking book, delivered through Rachel’s perfectly paced rhyming narrative that like the cone, bounces over the pages with increasing speed, accompanied by Jim Field’s deliciously detailed illustrations executed in a softly glowing autumnal palette, and absolutely wonderful characters – not only the main ones but the bit part players too.
A truly delicious read aloud no matter what the time of year, especially with its themes of the importance of friendship and the folly of petty fights.

Festive Fun for the Very Young

Listen to the Christmas Songs
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow

Half a dozen favourite seasonal songs are illustrated – one per spread – and each one can be brought to life by pressing the sound button on the respective spread.
(Adults can turn off the switch at the end of the book when they’ve had enough of the jollity.)
Interactive, sing along fun for the very young illustrated with bright animal scenes of festive fun and frolics.

Snow Dog
Puffin Books

To share with the very youngest, a dog-shaped board book with short rhyming text tells how the playful Snowdog runs and jumps, chases his ball and generally enjoys the company of his friends be they of the snowman or human kind.
Five snowy scenes show all the fun of the chilly outdoors.

Make & Play Nativity
Joey Chou
Nosy Crow

Here’s a nice strong, easy-to-assemble Nativity scene for small fingers.
It comprises twenty characters, some human, others animal that are easy to slot together, and in so doing, youngsters can hone their manipulative skills as a lovely seasonal scene is constructed.
Joey Chou’s artwork has a delightful simplicity that may well inspire users to make some of their own figures to add to the completed scene.
I’d suggest sharing the Nativity story included in the latter part of the book before starting on the construction. Once this is complete, then there are other activities including making an adventure calendar, songs to sing and more.
A festive delight that can (the pieces are easy to take apart after Christmas) be used over and over, either in a nursery setting or a family.

All I Want for Christmas
Rachel Bright
Orchard Books

In this short rhyming tale we join penguins – one Big, one Little- as they count down the days to Christmas.
There is plenty to keep them busy: baking, wrapping presents, making cards and decorations and seemingly, the entire penguin population is eagerly anticipating what will be under the Christmas tree.

There’s one penguin however who has no need to join the queue to post a letter to Santa, for the one thing Big really wants above all else is right there all the time: it’s a 4-lettered word beginning with l: can you guess what that might be?

Being in the Present: One Minute / Love You Hoo


One Minute
Somin Ahn
Chronicle Books
Have you ever thought about what you can do in a minute? If you’re a teacher of young children, you may well have done some playful activities on that theme: How many times can you write your name? How many cubes can you join together? How many times can you bounce a ball? and so on.
Here, after providing a few basic snippets of information: ‘In one minute, the second hand moves sixty times while the long hand moves once.’ Or ‘In one minute, you can blink your eyes 20 times …’ artist Somin Ahn offers some ideas for filling that unforgiving minute: hugging your dog; saying hi to a neighbour or planting seeds …


She then goes on to explore the way time can apparently expand or contract according to the particular situation: a roundabout ride makes a minute feel very short, as does playing in the park with your friends …


whereas that same time spent in the dentist’s chair feels like a long time …


We also discover that in one single minute a life can be saved, a train can be missed.
Observant listeners and readers will have noticed that the little girl’s mother is pregnant and this fact is used in the final two spreads: ‘In one minute, someone can leave’ shows the child tearfully hugging her mum farewell. Turning over, we have ‘And someone can arrive.’ – presumably a new sibling for the little girl.


Sensitive and thought-provoking, this small book offers much to ponder and discuss with nursery and infant children.


Love You Hoo
Rachel Bright
Orchard Books
Woo-hoo-hoo! It’s snuggle time for little ones; but first, one particular Big Owl wants to share some very important thoughts with Little Owl, thoughts about the wonderful times the two have shared together and the wonderful times that are yet to come. Parent and offspring are alternately teacher and learner in this relationship,


a relationship that is always sunny no matter what the weather; a relationship full of promise …


and the occasional mishaps …


The most important part of the message though is the final one and something every infant needs to hear: “Whoever you are going to be … Whatever you may do … Wherever you may choose to fly … I’ll always love you – hooooooo!
With a tenderly composed rhyming text and amusing scenes of the totally delightful owls, this is one to share with the very young. I’d suggest reading the text aloud to yourself first though as the phrasing of the rhyme is a little tricky on occasion.

Snowflake in My Pocket


Snowflake in My Pocket
Rachel Bright and Yu Rong
Walker Books
This is one of those stories that leaves you with a wonderful warm glow inside. It centres on the loving relationship between two woodland characters, a very old Bear and a very young Squirrel. Nothing the two do together is new to bear but doing it with Squirrel makes every experience ‘brand new’ for Bear.


One night Bear feels the first chills of winter and as the friends stand looking at the moon, he forecasts snow is on its way.


Next morning an excited Squirrel rushes to his window and having cleared a peephole through the frost looks out on a magical white world …


Bear meanwhile has a very nasty chill and needs to stay snuggled up in bed. Off goes Squirrel alone but without Bear to share it with him, even his fun-filled morning is less than perfect. The little fellow decides to take a snowflake home to give his friend and having caught ‘the perfectest one’ he puts it into his pocket and heads home. Now youngsters who have done the same will already be anticipating the outcome; and sure enough, when Squirrel puts his paw into his pocket, there’s no snowflake.
No matter, Bear tells him. “Snow comes and snow goes … but one thing lasts forever.” And Squirrel knows exactly what he means …


How beautifully author and artist capture that joy of experiencing snow for the very first time. Share this one with early years children particularly after a snowfall and let them try taking snow indoors. Share it at home snuggled up with a young listener or two, and follow with a mug of hot chocolate.

The Koala Who Could

The Koala Who Could
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books
Some of us find it harder than others to step outside their comfort zone; one such is koala, Kevin. This enchanting, cuddlesome creature is totally change averse and has three things – relaxing in the sun, clinging on and napping, and munching on a leaf-bun down to a fine art. Technically I suppose that’s four but for the sake of the story let’s not quibble. Our Kev. is ‘King of the Staying-Still Kings’. Put another way, he just stays put high up in his tree.
Down below the other animals race about enjoying themselves and making a lot of noise – it all seems far too large and strange for him, and despite invitations from the likes of Wombat,

and encouragements from the dingoes and kangaroos, nothing can shift cling-on Kevin. Occasionally he might have ideas about joining in but it never happens; his life just stays the same day in, day out.
Then one day something happens that undermines his whole raison d’être. Can Kevin finally let go of his safe, or now decidedly unsafe, existence?

The answer lies in just two little words.
I loved Bright and Field’s previous offering The Lion Inside with its African landscapes. Now we have a tale set in Australia, land of the eucalyptus trees that Kevin is so firmly attached to. What delectable scenes Jim Field has created to accompany Rachel Bright’s catchy, fun to read aloud, rhyming narrative. Kevin is a real heart-stealer; he might do nothing much, but his changing expressions as captured by Field, are a whole comedy in themselves. There’s so much more to delight though –the animated antics of the other animals, and the delight on the faces of one and all on the final page – that pretty much sums up the whole thing …

What are you waiting for? Join the new Kevin and give it a go.

Let’s Hear it for Dads

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Baking With Dad
Aurora Cacciapuoti
Child’s Play
When a little girl (the narrator) and her dad, oh, and there’s a moggy assisting too, spend the day baking, magic happens. But this isn’t any old baking day – it’s a special day for someone.
Let’s go back to the start though: first task (having donned chef’s hats) is to select the ingredients …


Then it’s time to get them into the mixing bowl, starting with the eggs …


followed by the sugar and a bit of mixing and shaking. Next comes the flour – a rather large quantity


and butter and milk, plus fruit to finish the whole thing off.


Now let the baking magic commence.
But why are the cooks now bustling around with bunting, crayons and more? To find out, you’ll just have to get hold of this sparkling story to see for yourself.
Aurora Cacciapuoti’s illustrations, in combination with her brief text, have made for a gigglesome delight to share around Father’s Day. But it’s way too much fun to restrict to then: this one’s a winner any day and in addition to a read aloud, it’s ideal for those beginning to read for themselves.

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Amazing Daddy
Rachel Bright
Orchard Books
I’ve come across very few children who don’t think their particular dad is THE best and so it is with the little panda narrator of this wonderfully warm story. Of course, like most dads, Daddy Panda has to go to work but before that there’s usually time for a snuggle up together …

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and maybe even a shared breakfast.

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At weekends Daddy might be busy in his shed, working on important projects …

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but other days are spent just playing and even when little panda misbehaves, his dad remains cool and calm.
For all these reasons and many more – best of all being the shared bedtime stories – there’s no other dad that can come close to the amazing superhero daddy whose virtues this little panda extols.
A smashing celebration of the relationship between father and child: Rachel Bright’s illustrations are full of tenderness and sufficient gentle humour to please the adults who share this with young children.

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Your Baby’s First Word Will be Dada
Jimmy Fallon and Miguel Ordóñez
Hodder Children’s Books
Two dads, one a relation, the other a friend have said to me in the last couple of weeks that their offspring have started talking and guess what the first word said in both instances was: “Dada”. So too here – or rather that’s the intention of the various animal fathers – in this hoot of a book. However paternal coaching doesn’t yield the desired results as we are shown – most merely proffer the characteristic sound of their species …

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though there is the odd exception …

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Maybe a more regimented group effort will bring on the all-important D word.

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That’s better, proud fathers all round … Well, almost: there’s always one …
Comedian and actor, Fallon has combined forces with Spanish illustrator, Ordóñez and it’s the artist who really makes this extended joke work.


I Love My Daddy
Jonathan Litton and Fhiona Galloway
Little Tiger Kids
Dads come in all shapes and sizes and, according to their offspring in this board book celebration of father figures be they Lion, Penguin, Cheetah, Hippo …


Goat or Dog, deserve rewarding in one way or another.
Attractive illustrations with a die-cut star on each spread that is part and parcel of a special gift from child to dad, are a key feature here; and the combination of Litton’s rhyming text and Fhiona Galloway’s bright scenes make for a jolly book for very littles to share with their special Dad figures around father’s day or any time.

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Monster Encounters

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The Bath Monster
Colin Boyd and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Have a bath or the Bath Monster will come and get you –a monster that lurks beneath the bath slurping up the mucky water – his second favourite food – through a special bendy straw: surely that’s nonsense isn’t it? It’s certainly what Jackson’s mother tells him to get him into the tub every night.
Until one day Jackson decides he’s outgrown his belief in said Monster and he’s covered from top to toe in thick mud. “Go and have a bath now or the Bath Monster will come and get you” warns his mother. But, Jackson is having none of it.

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So what will that Bath Monster have to satisfy his hunger instead? His number one favourite food, of course and seemingly Jackson is about to find out what that is …
Tony Ross’s Bath Monster is a magnificently mucky being and as readers ultimately discover, a creature after Jackson’s own heart. Every one of the illustrations for Colin Boyd’s unlikely tale brims over with delicious humour and I suspect adult readers aloud are going to get as much enjoyment from this one as the young children they share it with. The sight of that small (temporarily clean) boy being dangled unceremoniously above the bath on the first page sets the tone for the whole story

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and the picture of Jackson sitting in the tub in his protective gear is superb.

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Assuredly another Tony Ross triumph and a promising debut story for Colin Boyd.
Before we read the story I asked my audience to imagine a bath monster of their own; here are some of their ideas:

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There’s a Monster in my Fridge
Caryl Hart and Deborah Allwright
Simon & Schuster
‘What’s that hiding behind the door? It’s feet have squelched across the floor …’
so begins this split-page mock-scary visit to a monster-filled house on a hill.
Those who dare defy the KEEP OUT sign will encounter among others, the jelly-eating monster of the title, a glittery witch, a startled vampire …

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twin skeletons in the bathtub and an itchy werewolf …

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With such visual jokes as dancing toothpaste tubes, hairbrushes …

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and alarm clocks, and a surprise finale, this one is definitely a whole lot more fun than fright but worth a read around Hallowe’en nonetheless.
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Love Monster & the Scary Something
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unable to sleep one dark shadowy night, Little Monster lets his imagination run riot when he hears a rustling sound in the garden,

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a sound that seems to belong to something that’s found its way inside his very own house and is pitter-pat …. pittery patting around on its terrible hairy feet with terrible twisterly toenails and scuffling and bumping its way up the stairs.

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And it surely has enormous teeth for crunching …
Suddenly Love Monster decides there’s only one thing to do: be brave and confront the hungry creature, so it’s on with the torch and … What could that be looming in the doorway?

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Turns out it’s just another insomniac seeking someone to share the lonely darkness with – and a very tiny one too.
A lovely funny story about facing your worst fears, especially those relating to the dark with just the right degree of scariness for a bedtime read and great fun for Halloween sharing.

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Exciting  Children’s Books Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October


The Lion Inside

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Emmanuelle relishing the encounters         between Mouse and Lion

The Lion Inside
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books
A wide, dusty savannah. One rock, two occupiers: beneath ‘in a tinyful house,  

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Lived the littlest, quietest, meekest brown mouse.’: atop, an enormous, toothsome creature with a roar to beat all roars, Lion.

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So very wee is the mouse that his life is one of frequent squashings and being overlooked.

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Lion meanwhile lives a life of constant adulation.

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How that tiny brown creature wishes he could be more like King Cat. Perhaps a roar would win him some friends. But who can be his roaring teacher?
Fearing for his life, the mouse summons up all his courage and ventures forth into the night to scale the heights towards the slumbering lion,

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until …

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But what is forthcoming in response to mouse’s request to be taught how to roar isn’t quite what he’d expected …
Mouse’s bravery and subsequent discovery is a game changer for both parties: mouse discovers his true voice, and lion? He still roars but it’s with laughter now. And they both know, as the finale to this super-dooper story says, ‘no matter your size. We all have a mouse AND a lion inside.’
With its vital message about ‘being the change’ and a tuneful text that reads aloud like a dream, this book is truly, all heart. Jim Field uses close-ups and a variety of viewpoints and perspectives to dramatic effect making both wide-eyed, wide-eared mouse and bristle-maned lion with his cavernous jaws appear larger than life and truly awesome.
Two great new partnerships: mouse and lion, and Rachel Bright and Jim Field.

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Friends Forever

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Side by Side
Rachel Bright and Debi Gliori
Orchard Books
Deep in the heart of Wintermouse Wood,
Down in the grass where the autumn trees stood,
Lived all kinds of creatures
So begins a search by one of the wood’s tiniest residents, huge-hearted Little Mouseling, who wants a special friend to stay by her side. All manner of animals offer friendship but, unlike Toad, the mouseling can’t swim, she’s too frightened to climb like Big Brown Squirrel and she certainly cannot fly like Batty Fangs. Seemingly there’s no perfect match for our little seeker: sad and quite alone she has run out of scurries and skips, and tears begin to fall.

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But then up from a little hole pops a head belonging to ‘A tinyful, weenimous, little black vole.’ Equally shy and quiet, he cannot ignore Mouseling’s tears; indeed he offers a wonderful antidote to sadness. Let’s dance and sing ourselves happy, he suggests and thus they start to discover all manner of things a twosome can do, a twosome that is destined to last a life time. ‘A friend by your side makes life twice as good.’


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I know not whether Rachel Bright and Debi Gliori are good friends but they’ve certainly demonstrated a superb author/artist partnership in this book.
Rachel Bright’s captivating rhyming text just trips off the tongue and is a pleasure to read aloud even without any visuals. Add to that Debi Gliori’s enchanting, warmly comic illustrations and the result is a gratifying book to share with individuals, groups and classes. I love the way Debi uses shadow

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and light to draw our focus of attention to characters

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and events in the story.

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Where Bear?
Sophy Penn
Puffin Books pbk
I missed this one earlier but am so pleased to get the chance to review Sophy Henn’s debut picture book now.
It features a bear and a boy who have been friends living together in boy’s house since the bear was a cub and the boy, well a lot smaller than he is now.

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Eventually Bear outgrows the house and the boy, determined to find his ursine friend a new abode, sets out with him on a mission to find the just right home.
But where bear?” asks the boy. However, finding a new place for his best pal to be “bearish and big” proves more than a little challenging: bear turns down every single possibility boy offers

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Then where bear? “ is the oft-repeated question until finally the boy suggests a location that is acceptable. Both are happy especially as they are able to keep in touch and remain the best of friends.

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A truly heartwarming tale that explores such important ideas as moving away from a best friend, learning to let go and seeing things from another’s point of view.
Sophy Henn’s characterisation is wonderful and her visual portrayal simply gorgeous. Indeed everything about this book is noteworthy – the choice of colours, the use of space on the page; simplicity is the key and it works brilliantly.

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Monster Tales


Love Monster & the Last Chocolate
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins pbk
On his return from holiday, chocaholic Love Monster discovers a large box of chocs by his front door. Who can have left me these he wonders as his mouth waters at the thought of its contents.


Should he share them with his friends though, is his next consideration especially as there might not be sufficient or even worse, if someone choses his favourite or leaves him only the most disgusting flavor – unthinkable! Best to keep them all to himself decides Love Monster creeping indoors. But then, his guilty conscience strikes and out again shoots our LM to find his pals …


Their response to his ‘generosity’ however comes as something of a surprise for when at their behest, LM opens the box, what does he find?


A treat for chocaholics and monster lovers everywhere. Rachel Bright’s Little Monster – this is his third story – is indeed lovable. We all know several ‘Little Monsters’ I’m sure and they too will love to share in his thoughts and deeds. Follow your heart Little Monster.
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Don’t Call Me Sweet!
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Angie Rozelaar
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
What would you call a small, pale blue hairy monster with large round eyes and small white teeth that looks like this? – Whatever you do, as the title tells you, never, ever call him sweet. No matter that he accidentally falls into a muddy swamp while practicing stomping moves (then the name is SMELLY), or spatters himself with goo when making or rather messing, bug-eye stew. (SLIMY is the name this time.) Well, get ready to meet that stinky, slimy character as he sets out to do a spot of SCARING …
But what, are those enormous, hairy feet and huge toes?


Who do they belong to and what are they waiting for?  …
Time to bring out that alter ego little monster.


Despite his best efforts, this little monster, as created by his author and illustrator, is undoubtedly SWEET. But then that’s the whole point of this charming story. He’s just the kind of creature that small children love to create in their own pictures and models and I have no doubt that hearing this story will lead to a whole host of painting, drawing, collage creating, model-making, storying and more.
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DSCN2051Elmer and the Monster
David McKee
Andersen Press
Elmer seems unperturbed when, on his morning walk, his jungle friends in turn warn him of ‘a monster’ at large in the jungle. The birds, monkeys, tiger, the crocodiles, lion and even his fellow elephants are convinced it’s close at hand; they’ve all heard its fearsome roar. Then suddenly Elmer hears the roar too, very, very nearby. Into the clearing he peeps and there atop a rock sits its perpetrator – sobbing.


Bloo-Bloo explains all to Elmer and then they both set off to find the other animals so the ‘monster’ can demonstrate his powerful vocal chords.
This time, it’s not just Elmer who has the last laugh – that is shared by everyone.
Young listeners too delight in the silly ending especially, because it provides an open invitation to join Bloo-Bloo in an almighty, resounding ROAR!


Another winning addition to the Elmer series and a good one with which to join in Elmer’s 25th Anniversary celebrations – ROAR for little Bloo-Bloo and an even louder one for the wonderful ELMER.
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