This Book is Out of Control / Happy Hooves Yuk!

These two picture books welcome back some old friends:


This Book is Out of Control
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
The perils of the remote control are explored in this third comic romp starring Ben and Bella, not forgetting Bella’s dog of course. It all starts when Ben turns up clutching his new favourite toy – a remote controlled fire engine. Eager to show off his control skills he begins by demonstrating the UP button but a press yields no response or rather the ladder stays fixed: Bella’s dog doesn’t as we readers can see. Ben and Bella however are oblivious to the action taking place inside the house behind the door, which nestles in the gutter of the book and Bella has firmly closed.
With their eyes fixed firmly on the ladder Ben tries another button, which results in this …


I’ll leave you to imagine the results of pressing the siren button. Ben tries VOICE, which yields an utterance from the dog who opens the door revealing his predicament to the children. Things go from bad to worse despite Ben’s frantic button pushing and it’s then a case of over to you “Dear reader” especially as the expert remote controller has started to turn a delicate shade of green. Things are getting pretty desperate up top when readers are addressed once again …


Does this work, you might be wondering – it certainly appears that one of the characters is in control …


but we’re still left with one button none of them has tried …
With some rather crazy interactive opportunities, this is somewhat more sophisticated than the previous stories in the series. For me, the dog is undoubtedly the star of the show here.


Happy Hooves Yuk!
A.Bogie and Rebecca Elliott
Fat Fox
The third Happy Hooves story sees Pig deciding to treat his pals to a culinary feast. But even after his careful preparations things don’t go quite as he’s planned. Cow turns her nose up at the first dish; Foal frowns at the second;


Donkey is decidedly disturbed at the third and Sheep shudders at the thought of what she’s offered. Poor Pig: it seems none of his favourite dishes tempt his friends. He has one final course though: could this be the one? It certainly looks pretty scrumptious … let the party begin!


I envisage a whole lot of ‘eughs’ and ‘yucks’ when you share this engaging rhyming tale; and as a veggie, I found myself in total sympathy with Pig’s friends about his offerings – definitely disgusting! Let’s celebrate friendship and chocolate cake instead. Let’s also celebrate Rebecca Elliott’s patterned scenes: I love the retro style and the occasional bordered spreads.


Focus on those frogs …

An Animal Kind of Christmas

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Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh!
A.Bogie and Rebecca Elliott
Fat Fox Books
Christmas Eve brings excitement for the Happy Hooves brigade. Galvanised by Cow’s urging to get their homes spick and span in readiness for Santa’s visit, they stir from their afternoon slumbers and set off to clean up their respective abodes. But a terrible realization soon dawns for first home, Pig: he has no chimney for Santa to come down. Sheep offers to put him up but then he too remembers he has no chimney.

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Both flee to Donkey’s abode but the same applies here. Off they go to Foal’s but once again it’s a case of a chimneyless residence. What use are sparkling clean homes if Santa can’t get in? It’s not Ho! Ho! Ho! but Oh! Oh! Oh! The despairing friends seek out Cow.
Oh Cow, this news will make you glum,
We’ve got no chimneys for Santa to come!
Fortunately Cow knows that Santa will deliver his gifts anywhere just so long as a mince pie is left to welcome him. However, she makes the others an offer they can’t refuse and so, panic over, gathered together in Cow’s warm barn, they hear that, now welcome, ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!‘ of Santa in the distance.

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Buy from Amazon

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Snow Bunny’s Christmas Gift
Rebecca Harry
Nosy Crow
As Snow Bunny snuggly wrapped in her red cape, joins her friends Mouse, Fox and Bear in the snow just before Christmas, she’s full of anticipation at the fun they’ll have. Sledging is first but the chill wind sends Mouse scampering for the warmth of her home.

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Ice-skating makes Fox shiver so he too departs, then when the snow starts falling in the forest, Bear heads off home leaving a sad Snow Bunny all alone. On her way home she discovers a coin shining in the moonlight and off she goes to Badger’s shop. There she buys something that, after a lot of hard work with her knitting needles, means that her friends need never feel cold again. Fox, Mouse and Bear all have their warm Christmas gifts but their creator has the very best present of all – their friendship.

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A warm-hearted, tenderly told tale full of the true spirit of the season and with added sparkly touches at every turn of the page.
Buy from Amazon

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The Sheep that Saved Christmas
Jason Page and Adrian Reynolds
Red Fox pbk
Unfortunately for her flock-mates, Cynthia, is a sheep obsessed with Christmas, starting her anticipation of the festival in January. Fortunately for them however, maths is not her strong point so they come up with a cunning plan to pack her off on an extended holiday far away. And where do they dispatch her? – To the North Pole where Cynthia begs Santa to give her a job as one of his helpers. Seemingly though, she isn’t cut out to be a present wrapper, nor a cook’s assistant or even a sleigh puller. A disappointed Cynthia is on the point of heading home when she learns that disaster has befallen Santa himself. Christmas is cancelled, he announces but Cynthia thinks otherwise. Finally, the determined ewe gets her chance to save the day …

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Crazy, seasonal fun illustrated with Reynolds’ characteristic verve and humour. Cynthia’s changing fortunes are captured beautifully in her facial expressions and body language.
Buy from Amazon

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Yikes, Santa-Claws!
Pamela Buchart and Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk.
Frivolous Christmas frolics dinosaur style delivered by the creators of Yikes Stinkysaurus …
Who is that green scaly creature sporting a red hat and beard and coming down the chimney as the dino-tots snuggle up in bed eagerly awaiting Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve? It’s one Santa-Claws and it seems he’s hell bent on wreaking havoc and wrecking Christmas at their and every other home too. It’s just as well then, that a sparkling tree stops him dead in his tracks

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just as the real Santa arrives to put a stop to all the mischief and mayhem caused by this imposter and making Santa-Claws to see the error of his ways.
Buy from Amazon
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Adventures Anyone?

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Atlas of Adventures
illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Wide Eyed Editions
The world is full of adventures’ declares the opening line of this very large, high quality book, and what better way to invite young readers to explore our world than that; and without having to move from the comfort of their own home or classroom. There’s a world map on the opening spread followed by a contents page showing the seven sections: Europe, North America, Central & South America, Asia & the Middle East, Africa, Australasia & Oceania and Antarctica that comprise almost all the rest of the book. Each of these sections has its own introductory map followed by spreads showing exciting places and experiences to be had by visiting say, the Northern Lights in Finland where you can sleep under the stars;

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or you might try covering yourself in mosquito repellent and becoming an explorer in the Amazon rainforest.
All manner of exciting opportunities and experiences, representative of the location, await both the reader and the nameless boy and girl travellers who appear in ‘Where’s Wally’ fashion at every location. Surprisingly, they haven’t hidden themselves more in the Holi Festival scene –

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that coloured powder is an absolute nightmare to get off your skin and forget trying with your clothes! Much more gentle is the showering of cherry blossoms you might receive by visiting the spring festival in South Korea. If sport is your thing, there’s snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef, canoeing down the Zambezi or maybe a game of baseball in Central Park.
Each spread is packed with interesting facts and the illustrations themselves are full of detail, so both those who prefer to learn visually and those who prefer words are catered for. The latter will particularly enjoy the two main paragraphs on each spread and the shorter factual snippets scattered throughout the highly colourful, slightly retro scenes of the well-known and less well-known locations.
For sure this fascinating book is just the thing to inspire youngsters from, I’d say around six or seven, to find out more by travelling for real and it’s likely also to encourage empathy, excitement and endless curiosity about, and respect for, our world.
I’d definitely put a copy in every primary classroom from Y2 up.

All the characters in this story wanted was a trip to the seaside, but that in itself was packed with adventure:


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Happy Hooves Ta Dah!
A.Bogie and Rebecca Elliott
Fat Fox Books
Donkey and four other ungulate farmyard animals set off on a trip to the seaside. All goes well (they are on foot) until they reach a large cattle grid. No trouble for lively Donkey – he sails across but the others are less sure of themselves. However, despite their lack of confidence they do not lack resourcefulness, resolve or self-belief, so one by one over go Sheep,

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Foal and Pig leaving poor cow stranded on the wrong side of the grate. Is she to be left alone while the others continue to the beach? Of course not: friendship and co-operation save the day and eventually HIP! HIP! Hooray! all reach their destination …

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Wonderfully bright, mixed media illustrations by Rebecca Elliott (she of Just Because and Zoo Girl fame) and a jaunty, rhyming text with a repeat refrain – just the thing to engage young listeners and readers at home and in early years settings.

Find and buy from your local bookshop: