Once Upon a Wish & Thank You!

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Once Upon a Wish
Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie
Red Fox
Deep in the forest, in a giant oak tree, lives a magical wishgiving boy, as you’ll soon see …
By night, as the wishes drift his way, he spends his time concocting and conjuring up wish magic for girls and boys,

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then delivering it right to them …

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Despite their delight at receiving their heart’s desire, these children quickly forget the wish giver who also has a wish of his own, for it’s a lonely life he leads in that secret lair of his. The lad wishes for a pet or a friend to keep him company but try as he might, his own wish is unfulfilled …

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Then one night this wish wafts his way “I wish I could fly” and immediately our lad is up and doing, sprinkling, stirring and filling a bottle of potion, before sailing off to deliver same to the waiting wisher. This particular recipient however, is rather different. Yes, she’s absolutely over the moon at being able to take her maiden flight, but it’s what she does next …

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that makes all the difference, though not right away. Her kind words take a little while for their own particular brand of magic to do its work …

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Amy Sparkes’ brilliant to read aloud rhyming verses mixed with Sara Ogilvie’s sparklingly gorgeous, richly and humorously detailed, glowing illustrations make for a magic mix all of their own: sheer delight from cover to cover.
If you’ve ever forgotten to thank, or overlooked saying, thank you to anybody, I urge you to get hold of a copy of this one and send it to them forthwith; actually buy a copy no matter what; you’ll surely find someone or many, to share its enchantments.

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Thank You!
Ethan Long
Abrams Appleseed
A variety of animals, small and large, a toddler and an adult demonstrate ways of showing thankfulness in this delightfully playful board book. There’s an additional way of showing gratitude too herein: paying it forward. Cat proffers Dog a ball, then dog in turn gives a flower to hummingbird;

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hummingbird then offers panda a bamboo shoot ; panda extends his paw with peanut to elephant and so on. Each act of kindness receives a characteristic thankful response – “Growl growl!”,Toot toot!” and so on until we come full circle to the cat, now the recipient of a ball of wool.
Next, we see each of the recipients enjoying their gift and a small child watching and wondering. And then comes a final human sharing time with adult and child rounding things off neatly.

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Long constructs this whole concatenation cleverly with each animal stretching out of its border and across the gutter with its offering.
If you’re endeavouring to teach your young infant to respond appropriately when given something, this is the perfect book; just make sure you don’t end up with a confused child barking, humming, growling, tooting, eeking, oinking or meowing. Actually though, those speech bubbles are great for joining in with, and a slightly older sibling would likely enjoy reading the book to a very young brother or sister.

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Surprising a Dad/Superhero Dad

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How to Surprise a Dad
Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
The same team who gave us manuals for babysitting a Grandma and a Grandad now offer another instruction book. Herein we find a brother and sister joining forces to give their Dad a day (or several) to remember If you want tips on Dad-pleasing, then look no further, so long as you are prepared to be more than a little tricky;

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and it’s better to enlist Mum’s support too.
There are suggestions for the kind of surprises you might make – inventions for instance,

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or getting things ready or organising things for him, helping with the shopping, days out enjoying nature and some wonderful cooking extravaganzas with favourite ingredients (spicy crisps, smoked oysters, super-stinky cheese for instance) to serve along with those choc. chip cookies.

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With a plethora of plans to please a papa from Reagan and those digitally rendered illustrations peppered with presents and pop-pleasing humour from Wildish, this is an obvious choice for Father’s Day but equally fun to share with Dad at any time.

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Superhero Dad
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow
The Dad in this rhyming romp is assuredly a larger than life character – a secret superhero – the boy narrator informs us. His snores are ear-splitting, breakfasts are outlandishly awesome concoctions,

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he laughs uproariously at his own super-soppy jokes, his strength is – well what do you think?

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So much is worthy of his superhero status: his roars, (and kisses), his zooms and lifts, his woodwork skills especially.

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But, the positioning of his pants puts his whole ‘superhero-ness’ in doubt (to those who don’t know him well that is) but not to our young narrator: he knows what others don’t. It’s Dad though, not boy who has the final word …
With comical celebratory capers, cleverly constructed by the super Knapman and Berger partnership, this is a special treat for Dads to share with their super-kids and vice-versa; but also great fun for all super-adults to read to all super-smalls.

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Gracie and Leo engrossed in the story.

 

 

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My Dad’s the Best!
Nicholas Allan
Red Fox pbk
All dads are special is the message in Nicholas Allen’s latest offering. None however is quite like that belonging to the young narrator of this rhyming celebration of one slightly eccentric father figure, and dads in general.

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Told through a jaunty text and a sequence of zany watercolour illustrations,
this is one for dads and their offspring to share and not just on Fathers’ Day.

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Families, Families, Families

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Families, Families, Families!
Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
Picture Corgi pbk
Family units come in many kinds and all are celebrated in a series of portraits each one aptly framed to give it a real photograph feel. Each one is displayed – in a fitting manner, either hanging against a  themed background, or in a couple of instances standing on a shelf alongside ornaments of the same kind.

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This truly is a reassuring and realistic look at families in all their diversity: parents may or may not be married, children may be adopted, a family might include stepbrothers and sisters, children may live with a single parent – mother or father,

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some have two mums or dads, sometimes grandparents or an aunt provide the family home, there may be a plethora of pets, siblings might be many or none.
Warm, funny, accepting and all embracing, the love shines through from every entry in the portrait gallery The rhythmic rhyming text bounces merrily along culminating in the all important

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A great way to introduce a discussion about diversity at school or at home.
The gentle humour of the photographic animal illustrations gives a fresh lively look to this important topic while also offering a distancing device for the human children who share this book with a supportive adult.

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Aren’t You Lucky!
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Red Fox
Just the thing if there’s a new baby imminent or just arrived in a family,is a new edition of a “New baby Story’ first published over 20 years ago. Not my favourite Anholts’ new baby book – that’s Sophie and the New Baby – but a delightful and equally reassuring one nonetheless. It’s a sensitively done, first person narrative told by an older sibling. Used to being an only child, the little girl eagerly anticipates the arrival of a new brother or sister but once her new brother arrives, she soon discovers he is going to take a lot of getting used to. Happily though her understanding mum voices a wish for someone who could help her with the baby and before long our narrator discovers a whole new big sister role for herself.

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Isn’t he lucky!” are the words uttered by family friends and the book’s final ones; so too are the young children given this charming Anholt classic at just the right time.

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Action Movie Kid
Daniel Hashimoto, Mandy Richardville and Valerio Faberge
Keywords Press
I know one person who has one of these –endlessly energetic, bright, fearless and imaginative – actually she has two, but only one called James.
Kept busy by his numerous adventures,

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Action Movie Kid somehow manages to find the time to help his family – he’s a well-meaning boy is James …
And his mum is frequently known to utter such things as …

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One evening AMK hears strange sounds emanating from the basement and when he bravely investigates, discovers inside the washing machine, a portal to another dimension. From the gooey depths emerges an alien slime monster – an extremely slippery customer with a seemingly insatiable appetite.
When things get too much, assistance is called for

 

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and that is exactly what they do – having hastily transformed themselves that is.

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Then mopping up missions complete and enemy sent back where he belongs, it’s time for … bed!
Great literature this certainly isn’t: great fun it assuredly is, particularly if you are an AMK with a big imagination and love comics, and I know a whole lot of those.

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Zoom!
Trish Cooke and Alex Ayliffe
Harper Colliins Children’s Books
Watch young children – they rarely walk , rather they run, skip, jump, whizz and generally dash madly around.
This is an exuberant and charming book about a brother and sister and the joys of general charging around – a favourite activity–

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and about finding some more peaceful, but equally enjoyable things to do when the dashing about has to be curtailed temporarily as it does when Hurricane Kieron falls and hurts his leg. It’s then that he discovers that he can make his paintbrush zzzzooooommm around on paper instead. And what wonderfully whooshing, creative fun he and later Ria, have too:

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not to mention the odd hurricane.
Share this one with those around the age of Kieron and Rush Around Ria – if you can manage to catch them and sit them down for long enough that is. With those bright, jolly action-packed illustrations and a whole host of deliciously noisy action words and other exuberant sounds to join in with, you should manage to have more than a few peaceful minutes of reading pleasure.

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Emu
Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne
Walker Books
Did you know that it’s the emu dad that takes the role of carer for his young? I didn’t. Once his female mate has laid her final egg in the nest the pair built together, she leaves the male to hatch and rear the fledglings. How he does so and much more about that and other animals of the Australian landscape emus inhabit, is related in this absorbing narrative information book.

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The descriptive language Claire Saxby uses is exciting and superbly crafted: ‘gangly, with stippled heads and ribbon stripes, the chick surveys the forest.’ And Graham Byrne provides gloriously textured, scratchy/splodgy storytelling illustrations that truly convey the eucalyptus forest setting of the narrative.

 

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This book is a celebration of a particular aspect of the natural world and a wonderful way of conveying information about it.

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London Christmas, Country Christmas

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Katie’s London Christmas
James Mayhew
Orchard Books
Fast asleep on Christmas Eve, Katie and Jack are woken by a loud sneeze coming from downstairs: Grandma, they suppose, but when they creep down, whom do they discover busy with presents by the tree – not Grandma but Father Christmas himself. Not only does he have the snuffles, but he’s also behind with his parcel deliveries. Katie and Jack are more than ready to help and so ‘WHOOSH!’ off they all fly over the rooftops of London in the swirling snow. They see the lights of Regent Street, get a view of Covent Garden, then it’s on past that glorious Trafalgar Square Christmas tree

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to the Houses of Parliament and around Big Ben before starting the night’s work proper. And what a busy time they have delivering to all manner of houses; but there’s one very important delivery left to do involving a royal chimney, a very special family and some sleeping corgis.
With glorious paintings of some of the most famous sights of London coated in snow and bathed in starlight

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and glowing indoor scenes, this magical, charming story with touches of gentle humour, is truly wondrous.

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And Then Comes Christmas
Tom Brenner and Jana Christy
Walker Books
When the days barely start before they’re over again,
and red berries blaze against green shrubs.
And bare branches rake across the sky …
Then hang up boughs of fir or spruce or pine,
Dotted with cones and bits of holly, welcoming winter.’
So begins this heartwarming seasonal book wherein we share with a rural family, the time leading up to Christmas Day itself. First though there are decorations to hang up, a visit to Santa at the store, parcels to keep hidden and a tree to choose and to cover with baubles and lights. At school there is the inevitable concert, and presents to make for mum and dad. Come Christmas Eve the whole house is scented by delicious baking smells and neighbours come to visit. Then there are stockings to hang, presents to put under the tree, not forgetting a special offering to leave for Santa and his reindeer before snuggling up in bed for a favourite story. When … the whole world waits seemingly …

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Then next morning …

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Beautifully and poetically written, and portrayed in glowing scenes of seasonal wonders both inside and outdoors, this is a gorgeous book to share in the days before Christmas either at home or school. The patterned text uses the same When/Then structure right through with a general ‘When …’ statement

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followed by a ‘Then’ action for the featured family.

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Seasonal smells, sights and sounds are evoked on every spread so that each turn of the page brings sensory delight.
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No young child’s Christmas is complete without:

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Alfie’s Christmas
Shirley Hughes,
Red Fox pbk
Alfie’s Christmas
Shirley Hughes
Bodley Head
Making cards and decorations, counting down the days with an advent calendar featuring a nativity scene, Christmas cooking, buying and decorating a Christmas tree, choosing and wrapping presents, writing to Santa, carol singing, hanging up Christmas stockings and a family Christmas dinner with visiting relatives:
these are just some of the ingredients of four-year old Alfie’s Christmas so lovingly told and illustrated in Shirley Hughes incomparable style.
This is a traditional family Christmas full of warmth, friendship, love, bustle and excitement, and some secrets too. It’s Christmas as we would wish it to be for everyone, before Christmas started in October and consumerism took over.
Assuredly, a book to buy and cherish year after year.
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Two Parties, Two Birthdays

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The Dinosaurs are Having a Party!
Gareth P. Jones and Garry Parsons
Andersen Press
It’s party time at the dinosaurs’ residence and someone has a special guest invitation.

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On his arrival our young narrator finds the party in full swing with games galore and a scrumptious spread on the table. Outside is a barbeque, but where is the meat?

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And the large bouncy castle is lots of fun – at least till stegosaurus comes along.
Oh, who is taking SO long in the loo?

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O-OH! Time to grab a party bag and leave the fun behind it seems …

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But the host doesn’t want to lose sight of that special fea.. – oops I mean guest, just yet; indeed he’s hot on the (w)heels of that escapee vehicle most of the way … home. Phew! Lucky escape. Just what is in your party bag then, little boy?
A madcap rhyming story where young audiences will delight in spotting the visual warning signs from the time the narrator leaves home until his hasty departure from the party. They will also relish the twist – or rather snap – at the end of the tale.

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There’s more partying in:

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We’re Going to a Party!
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press pbk
We’re going to a party,
disguised in fancy dress.
But which of us is What or Who?
It’s up to you to guess!

Each of the animals has donned a disguise and asks readers to decide who is really the banana, pirate, princess, tiger
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and so on. Who is that in a ‘rubbish’ monster costume they wonder. Somebody none to happy about to give them a surprise …
Rhyming fun, flaps, a pop-out finale and delicious Ross illustrations: what’s not to like?

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I Feel Five!
Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Walker Books
How does it feel to be five?’ or six or whatever is a question often asked of children. It always seems a bit daft to me – why would anyone suddenly feel different overnight just because of a birthday. This is certainly something young Fritz ponders as he wakes up on his fifth birthday leaping joyfully out of bed

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and rushing to the mirror only to be confronted by a reflection that looks exactly like the day before’s; and he still can’t tie the laces on his new shoes. Maybe school will help him to feel five he decides. But, when his teacher asks him that inevitable question and his friends sing his birthday song, Fritz still feels just the same.
It’s a rather disillusioned Fritz –still unable to whistle, snap his fingers or do the monkey bars two at a time and still needing just one hand to count his years – who suddenly hears a voice as he sits sadly under an apple tree on his way home from school.

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The voice belongs to a little girl and she’s asking him if he can reach the apples.
One flying leap later… two rosy apples, two bite into same and could it just be one very slight wiggle from one of Fritz’s teeth; now there’s a feeling that is just a little different.

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And, he has made a new friend; things are definitely looking up.
Full of charm and gentle humour, this is a good story to have to hand in an infant classroom when children turn four, five or six.
Soft watercolours portray so clearly the ups and down of Fritz’s birthday; I love his light-surrounded leap out of bed and the contrasting, all pervading grey gloom as he sits under that apple tree, oh and those two pairs of shoe-clad feet on opposite sides of a spread –

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so beautifully expressive.

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The Dinosaur That Pooped the Past!
Tom Flethcher & Dougie Poynter illustrated by Garry Parsons
Red Fox pbk
The pooping dinosaur is back once again. Danny’s Gran is celebrating her one thousand and eighth birthday and she’s served up masses of disgusting green, wind-creating stuff. Guess who gobbles Dan’s share before Gran notices so that the pair can go out and play. Once outside they head for a creaky old swing, one that turns out to be super powered. Dizzily they loop back through time

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before finally crash landing in the Jurassic era. There they meet a trio of baby dinos, Dino Dudes A, B and C. who like nothing better than clambering on top of each other. As Danny’s dinosaur sits back to watch their games, he feels a rumble in his tum, a rumble that makes the ground crumble , a crumble that signifies VOLCANO SEASON! No time to lose; the swing must be repaired; but that alone is not strong enough to carry extra passengers out of danger. There is only one thing to do …

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Three cheers for the power of broccoli and another three for the trio of new dino pals. They all arrive just in time a hefty chunk of Gran’s broccoli birthday cake.

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Scatological, or rather poopological, humour courtesy of that huge-bellied dinosaur delivered in rip-roaring rhyme and suitably exuberant illustrations; just the thing to send young children into fits of giggles, not to mention many of the adults who share it with them.

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Holidays Far and Near

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Wanda and the Alien Go Camping
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Wanda and her alien pal embark on their fourth adventure – camping. Their camp site however, is not the original earthly one planned; that’s far too wet and rainy. Instead the alien takes Wanda in his space rocket to his planet and it’s there they set out to find a suitable place to pitch their tent. Even that however, doesn’t match up to expectations, certainly not Wanda’s anyhow. She finds fault with all the possible spots they visit –

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too noisy, too quiet, too wild. Oh dear, can it be that the alien’s planet is entirely unsuitable too. But what about those clouds up above; could they possibly fit the bill?
Seemingly so.

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Cloud camping is just perfect; they can invite their other friends and the rain will not interfere at all.
One cannot help admiring the alien’s perseverance and Wanda’s endeavours not to hurt her best friend’s feelings. Indeed the sight of Wanda and her alien friend always brings a smile to my face, as in my experience, it does to many a preschooler. Here, I am sure the multitudes of aliens in alien city with their Day-Glo striped apparel and varying number of eyes, and the cloud camping possibilities will particularly appeal.
Sue Heap’s delightful images are just the thing to stimulate some modeling activities with coloured soft dough, ‘Fimo’ or similar; don’t forget the googly eyes though.
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I Heart Holidays
Clara Vulliamy
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This is a happy book all about MARTHA – that’s me! Come and see my BRILLIANT new suitcase!

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Who can resist these opening lines of the third story featuring Martha and her bunny brothers. Young Martha is busy packing all manner of items into her case in preparation for her seaside holiday and finally the entire family is ready.

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Off they go in Bluebell, their camper van and after a long tedious journey it’s on with those swimming togs and a mad dash for the sea. Brrr! Not for long though; Pip objects strongly so Martha devises another activity and then it’s time for a picnic lunch – with the obligatory sandy sandwiches. Time to go in the sea now? More objections from Pip so …
After lunch there’s burying Dad in the sand,

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ice-creams, the starry sunglasses rescue operation and a sandcastle building competition with the inevitable trashing and then finally … our young narrator has had enough. She heads seawards – alone. Not for long though for pretty soon (despite the downpour) those pesky bunny brothers have joined her for a glorious romp and guess what:
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I love the retro VW camper van, the shell face (so typical of young children),

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the portrayal of Dad being covered in sand, the exuberance of Martha and her brothers when the sun finally shines … pretty much everything that Clara Vulliamy has included in this seaside romp.
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Catch That Plane!
Sally Sutton and Sylvie Currin Korankova
Walker Books
We join a family in holiday frenzy as they rush to the airport, chase to check-in, dash to departures,

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scoot through security, trot down the travelator, jog down the aerobridge and finally, board their plane.

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Then it’s a peep through the window, buckle up that seat belt, engines roaring, racing down the runway and they’re off up … up… away! The holiday has well and truly started.
There are echoes of Walking in the Jungle, albeit at a faster pace, in this first person account by a boy setting off on his holiday with his Mum, Dad and younger sister. It’s probably more narrative information that a real story but there’s plenty to interest here with the sights and sounds of the airport and the playful, jaunty rhyme, plentiful alliteration and more. And, just in case it isn’t obvious from the context, there is a final ‘Facts’ spread explaining the terms used in the text.
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Clever Cats

 

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Gracie was highly amused by Macavity’s antics.

Macavity The Mystery Cat
T.S.Eliot and Arthur Robbins
Faber & Faber pbk
Macavity has taken on a new incarnation courtesy of Arthur Robins in this 75th Anniversary Edition of one of the inhabitants of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and a truly splendid tribute it is too.

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Robins’ wibbly wobbly outlines work wonderfully for this purpose of celebratory depiction of the activities of that levitating, gravity defying, feline fiend who has Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad and the Admiralty flummoxed.

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A rip-roaring read of the first order and herein we are introduced to a bumbling bloodhound police detective who has taken charge of the task of investigating the moggie’s misdoing, but of course, after each dastardly act ‘Macavity’s not there!’ All we, but seemingly not the inept, flashlight- and binocular-waving investigator, catch sight of is a tail,

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a paw, or perhaps an ear, at the scene of a crime.
Wonderful to share with youngsters, friends, cat lovers, poetry lovers, word lovers, pretty much anyone in fact. And if any of those and I’m sure they will, enjoy the adventures of the scraggy, ginger tom, that Napoleon of Crime, then direct them straightway to the further feline frolics found in Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats in its entirety.
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William & the Missing Masterpiece
Helen Hancocks
Templar Publishing pbk
The ’William’ of the title is an international cat of mystery who has to postpone his holiday to rush to the assistance of Parisian art gallery owner, Monsieur Gruyere. Mr Gruyere is in a stew because his gallery has planned an exhibition for National Cheese Week and the Mona Cheesa masterpiece has been stolen.

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There are no suspects, William is told on arrival. His close search reveals – take note – two items of significance: a strand of red wool and a little hole in the skirting board.
A visit to two close friends proves fruitless and William accepts an invitation to their  competition opening. In the meantime, while having a bite of lunch he espies a decidedly overdressed character passing by carrying a large, flat shaped parcel and heading for a fancy dress shop.

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When the same character leaves with another parcel our special investigator follows him for a while but then loses the trail and instead heads to the competition venue. Therein, he learns of a splendid last-minute entry by an unknown.
William inspects it closely, visualizes the day’s events thus far, ponders on the cheesy nature of the prize

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and just as the winner is about to be announced, he dashes in and unmasks, not only the painting but also the so-called artist …
A feline frolic of the first order is Helen Hancocks’ latest offering. It’s packed with deliciously cheesy wordplay, ‘ THE ROBBERS HAD THOUGHT THEIR MISSION TO STEAL THE MONA CHEESE A ‘FETA-COMPLI’ AS THEY WERE HANDED FIRST PRIZE AT THE ANNUAL HOMAGE TO FROMAGE COMPETITION. …
TO SEE THE THIEVES GO UNPUNISHED REALLY GRATES,” SAID MONSIEUR GRUYERE,
’ visual art references, droll pictorial details with the Parisian spirit very much in evidence.

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My Name is Bob
James Bowen, Garry Jenkins and Gerald Kelley
Red Fox pbk.
Forced by a chain of circumstances, into becoming a street cat following the death of his kind old lady owner, the feline narrator is cold, friendless and mistreated but then, attracted by beautiful music being played, he comes upon a man playing a guitar.

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Having followed the man home and then got himself injured, our narrator is taken in by the kind guitarist, James who feeds him and gives him a new name, Bob. Once his leg was better, Bob accompanied James everywhere and they became a busking duo and so they are today: inseparable.
This heartwarming tale told in a matter of fact manner without a hint of sentimentality, will appeal to cat lovers young and not so young, in particular to those who enjoy a true story with a happy ending.
Don’t forget to read the pawprint information about the chief protagonist on the back cover too.
Kelley’s true to life paintings add to the reality of whole book, which is actually billed as a picture book prequel to the worldwide bestseller ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’.
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