Tag Archives: Richard Byrne

The Case of the Red-Bottomed Robber!

The Case of the Red-Bottomed Robber!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

The chalks are an artistic lot creating colourful drawings at every opportunity so imagine their feelings when something or someone starts ‘stealing’ their pictures, and not just once either.

Thus begins this daft tale wherein Sergeant Blue and of course, readers are hot on the trail of the miscreant although I expect young listeners will already have their own suspicions as to his identity.

It’s not long before the Sergeant has lined up an identity parade of possible candidates and there’s one particularly suspicious-looking character that fits the evidence and his behind is covered in tell-tale red dust.

Caught red-bottomed! But before the prison doors are closed on the culprit, he makes a dash for freedom.

Will the chalks ever catch up with that slippery customer and if so, what will happen?

This light-hearted romp embodies an important message about not being too hasty in making judgements.
Children will enjoy the chalk-board style illustrations: in the face of the near ubiquity of white boards and markers in schools, could this be the start of a chalk-board revival – you never know!

I Want To Go First!

I Want To Go First!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

I’ve never quite understood the obsession with being first in a line but it’s something that seems to take hold of children almost from the minute they start school – that’s if they’re made to line up anyway – a teachers’ obsession, often fuelled by parents, and one I dislike intensely.
The whole ‘going first’ thing can make for a fun story though and Richard Byrne exploits its potential for creating humour in his latest interactive picture book.
We join five funkily attired elephants, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Elton, Elgar and Elphie as they’re about to embark on ‘the long march to the watering hole at the back of the book’.
Elphie, the smallest of their number, is always the one that brings up the rear.
On this occasion however, he’s had enough of being last and asks to go in the front of the line. As usual though the response comes, ‘ … the littlest always goes last’.
Elphie isn’t prepared to walk at the back and instead he enlists the help of readers to help him with his plan of action. Help that involves first, shouting …

followed by hissing,

wobbling the book, squeaking and other noise making; all of which serve to get him to second place in the line right behind Elgar, just as they reach their destination where it looks as though we’re about to be rumbled …

Oops! The water hole is already occupied. Now what? Perhaps that squeak-squeak noise might come in useful after all … Could it even make the other elephants rethink their first in line criterion.
Enthusiastic orchestration and demands of ‘again’ were my listeners’ responses to this sizeist tale with its playful attempt to alter the status quo.

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 …

We’re in the Wrong Book

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We’re in the Wrong Book!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
Ben and Bella (plus her dog) from This Book Just Ate My Dog return for another crazy adventure, or rather, a whole host of adventures as their jump-in-a sack game results in them – Ben and Bella that is – being unceremoniously bumped right off the page …

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and into …

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They don’t stop there though: another jump takes them to a comic book housed in a library where a very helpful librarian, having heard the description of their book, sends them off to one that matches their criteria – tall buildings and an enormous dog but …

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And even the puzzling mazes don’t lead to ‘their’ book; in fact a dinner invitation is issued at their next port of call …

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Fortunately we readers are able to come to their rescue here and the friends undertake a nifty bit of paper folding , not to mention a spot of creative colouring to get themselves to safety

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– almost anyway  …


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But let’s give the final word to that dog of Bella’s …

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Totally engaging and full of diversions that are best kept to a second or third reading. If not, their plea will go unanswered and the two pals will be forever stuck between the pages of ‘the WRONG BOOK’ …

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Spotty Friends, Mischievous Meerkats

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Spotty Lottie and Me
Richard Byrne
Andersen Press
Joey is a small boy with a big imagination; he also has chicken pox and that combination is the cause of his problem. His mum tells him he is still infectious but can play with a friend so long as s/he’s a spotty one; so after a bit of thinking, off goes Joey to find a poxy pal. However, his playful overtures are spurned by spotty being

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after spotty being …

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and it’s a very tearful Joey who returns home. He’s not sad for long though… knock knock: someone’s at his door. It’s Lottie and joy of joys – she too has chicken pox. And what dotty, spotty fun the two have for the next few days

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until they’re declared spotless and able to mix freely.
So why are all those, now friendly animals still wary of Joey’s face?
The author/artist clearly has a playful sense of humour that manifests itself particularly strongly through his visuals. I love the way for instance that the games Joey and Lottie play are all strategically placed in the very first spread, and the finale is a real hoot.

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A joy to share with young listeners whether or not they are spotty: those who happen to be suffering like Joey will be especially appreciative. So too will learner readers who, amused at the antics herein, are tempted to tackle this story for themselves. The shortish, witty text is such that those near the beginning of their reading journey will be able to read the words after an initial sharing with an adult.

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That Naughty Meerkat!
Ian Whybrow and Gary Parsons
Harper Collins
Meet a family of meerkats living in the Kalahari Desert. There’s Mimi, Skeema and Little Dream (they’re the young kits) and their Uncle Fearless. Then there’s Radiant (in the nursery) with her new babies, Bundle, Zora, Quickpaws and Trouble (watch that one). You can imagine how happy an exhausted mother Radiant feels when Uncle Fearless offers to take care of her babies for the day and that’s despite warnings of how mischievous those little ones are.
So off goes Radiant for a dig and off march Uncle Fearless – “proud chief … stern and wise!”, closely followed (in response to his ‘follow me’ order) by the four babes. And that’s the first and last order they all comply with. From then on not only Trouble

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but all the others start showing their true natures.

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It’s fortunate for Uncle Fearless that those three young kits show up offering some help just then and even more so that they stick around despite Uncle Fearless’s assurances that he can manage just fine on his own. And they certainly demonstrate their understanding of what babies like to do very effectively – play …

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leaving Uncle Fearless keeping guard. But that’s not quite the end of the story – I won’t spoil that but let’s just say that teamwork is the order of the day, or should that be, evening?
Anticipating the antics of those mischievous baby meers is part and parcel of the enjoyment of this entertaining tale. Gary Parson’s light-hearted portrayals of the high-spirited infant meerkats and that sudden dramatic change of mood (enough said) is the ideal complement to Ian Whybrow’s chucklesome, tongue-in-cheek text.

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Canine Catastrophes

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This book just ate my dog!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
Many of us avid readers devour books but here the situation is altogether different; it’s the book that does the devouring. All begins normally as Bella is walking her large spotty dog across the first page, but when he reaches the gutter, he starts to disappear headfirst

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and by the next page has vanished altogether, his lead protruding from the crack. Along comes Ben offering to help but he too meets the same fate, as does the rescue service van, followed by a police car and a fire engine! Time for Bella to take over but at the turn of a page and a very large BURP she too falls victim to the dreaded gutter.
All is not lost however; seemingly Bella has somehow managed to slip a note out to us book-devouring readers issuing instructions on how to help her escape. Wiggle, shake and shake and shake and shake and wiggle once again …

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normality restored –more or less.

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Don’t forget to read Bella’s final instructions or …. Oh well, we are bound to go back and start all over anyway.
Very clever, very funny and very, very satisfying.

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Smelly Louie
Catherine Rayner
Macmillan Children’s Books
Fresh from the bathtub, Louie has lost his unique doggy smell; instead, there’s a distinct aroma of roses and apple blossom about him. One unhappy Louie: off he goes in search of his own elusive odour. Fox, the snails, even some friendly flies all come up with helpfully pongy possibilities and then an improved, but not yet perfect Louise remembers the stagnant pond. There he wallows until his ‘Special Smell’ is restored. Back home trots a satisfied Louie with a big smile on his face; but what is that powerful aroma coming from upstairs and that noise?

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Please not –
Once again, Catherine Rayner’s characterization is superb. The text, with its scattering of alliteration, is a delight to read aloud and the circularity of her shaggy dog story so satisfying, for readers and listeners that is, although not perhaps for its determined canine protagonist. Her illustrations here exhibit a delightful blend of scribbled exuberance in Louie’s glorious messiness and the detailed, fine control evident in the small creatures such as snails and bees and the flora around them.

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One can almost smell that characteristic doggy whiff emanating from Louie on the penultimate spread and he’s definitely won my affection despite my not being a dog lover in general.

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What a Noise!


Leslie Patricelli
Walker Books
Far from being embarrassed by the eruptions escaping from its rear end, Leslie Patricelli’s adorable toddler talks about ‘toots’. There are ‘on my trike’ toots, music class toots,


I need my potty toots, tummy ache toots and in the bath toots – some long, others short. We also hear about the toots from parents and pets. And what is our reaction to all this tooting? We laugh; and that is just what we are likely to do as we share the thoughts of the infant narrator in this hilarious board book.

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Here’s little E. reading her current favourite book.

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Baby Beats
Karen Blair
Walker Books
Herein we have an open invitation to join the toddler quintet in their musical interlude as they clap, stamp, boom, bash, clash, tap, shake, strum and sing.


Then it’s the turn of the stripey cat to make a contribution before a grand finale after which they all snuggle down for some shut-eye.
Get out your percussion instruments or those saucepans, lids, spoons, sticks, pieces of wood, plastic bottles of rice, beans etc. for your children after you’ve shared this short book; with its charming water colour illustrations and rhyming text, it makes a lovely starting point for a session of music making and movement.
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Say Hello Like This!
Mary Murphy
Walker Books
A host of animals celebrate their individual voices as they practice saying hello in their own noisy ways. There’s the loud licky ‘Bow-wow-wow-wow’ from the dogs, the tiny tappy ‘tip tap tip tap’ of the beetles and the silly, happy HEE HAW! HEE HAW! from the donkeys. All these and more contribute to a glorious animal hullabaloo with just one missing voice…
The lift-the flap element of the book adds to the delight of the vocals as we see the various pairs coming together when the half page is turned to reveal for instance, the antennae tapping beetles, jumpy frogs on lilypads



or the leaping, cavorting canines.
Mary Murphy’s characteristically bold, bright images thickly outlined in black are full of joie de vie.
With its well-chosen words and use of rhyme this is a pleasure to read aloud and with an open invitation to create a lot of noise, it is sure to become a firm favourite at story sessions with the very young.
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Another funny ‘noisy’ story already reviewed on Red Reading Hub in the post Goldilocks, Bears, Riots and More and now out in paperback is:


What Noise Does a Rabbit Make
Carrie Weston and Richard Byrne
Andersen Press pbk
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Bookmark 5th March in your diary


Picture Book Medley


The Strongest Boy in the World
Jessica Souhami
Frances Lincoln
Jessica Souhami’s latest offering is an alternative take on an old Japanese tale, the first records of which go back to the 13th Century. The original story featured an adult warrior whereas here, Souhami’s would-be hero is a plucky though puny boy who dreams of becoming a champion Sumo wrestler. Kaito sets out from his village to the Kyoto tournament and en route meets Hana, a girl with much greater strength. Hana decides to toughen him up but can she do it in the three weeks before the tournament? Training begins in earnest with a strict diet of tough meat, bony fish and semi-cooked rice together with a regime of running, jumping, kicking, lifting and punching.


Finally Kaito is declared ready to fight and sets off once again for the city. The enormous and famous wrestlers he meets therein scoff at him but Kaito overcomes every one he comes up against and is declared champion. Greatly impressed, the Emperor invites him to live at his court as Imperial Champion. What is Kaiko’s decision? Suffice it to say he is the strongest boy in the land but both he and readers know of an even stronger young person, someone without whose help he could not have achieved his dream.
Striking collage illustrations, beautifully crafted and suitably energetic, underline the humour of this tale. It’s wonderful to have a female character with such strength of body and mind – a celebration of ‘girl power’, but at the same time, an acknowledgment of male strength, making this a book that will be pleasing to both genders.
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Counting Chickens
Polly Alakija
Frances Lincoln
Young Tobi’s pride and joy is his hen: his village friends have animals of their own too. One Monday, Ade’s cow has a calf and Tobi’s hen lays one egg. The next day, Tunde’s sheep has two lambs; Tobi’s hen lays a second egg and so it goes on.


On Sunday it lays a seventh egg. The hen sits, Tobi waits and waits… After three weeks both are rewarded with a brood of seven, newly hatched, yellow chicks. The following year those chicks become mother hens with their own babies – so many Tobi needs help to count them all.
This lovely story with its Nigerian village setting is beautifully illustrated with earthy tones that contrast with the strong colours of the villagers’ clothes and vehicles. Patterns abound in the details of the weaves of baskets, designs on some of the clothing and the natural designs of the African flora and fauna.
With its counting opportunities, days of the week and most important, a great opportunity to share a story with a Nigerian setting, this is a book I would recommend highly to those in nursery and infant settings as well as anybody who wants to expand the horizons of their young child/children.
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Mr Tiger Goes Wild
Peter Brown
Macmillan Children’s Books pbk
Dapper looking Mr Tiger sports a top hat, suit and bow tie and lives in a street of houses the residents of which are very proper, upright people who drink tea and sit nicely at the table. Mr T. however becomes bored with this dull existence. Time to explore life on the wild side, he decides. Soon he isn’t content with being on all fours; clothing dispensed with, he’s off to ‘the wilderness’ as instructed by his now, horrified friends. There, his wildness is given full rein but roaring and roaming freely in the wilderness proves less than completely satisfying: Mr Tiger misses his friends and city home. Back he goes to discover that not only can he now be more true to his real nature, but that his friends too have become both more accepting and relaxed in themselves.


There are echoes of Rousseau in Peter Brown’s digitally edited Indian ink, watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations. These begin with an almost monochromatic palette (apart from the tiger’s face) becoming brighter in tandem with Mr T growing wildness.


Brown lets his illustrations do much of the talking. The ‘be yourself’ message comes through loud and clear from the pictures whereas he keeps the verbal content understated and to the point.
This clever picture book has much to offer although I wouldn’t suggest using it with under fives unless they have already had exposure to a wide variety of picture books and some experience of talking about and interpreting them.
The book is most assuredly an excellent starting point for discussions relating to being yourself, difference/divergence and acceptance for children in primary and even secondary schools.
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Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner
Gareth Edwards and Guy Parker-Rees
Alison Green Books pbk
Definitely don’t do that nor, says the boy narrator of this very funny, rhyming cautionary tale, should you share your toothbrush with a shark, never let a beaver in the basin or use a tiger as a towel. A bison will be a bully so despite its woolliness, don’t choose one for a blanket


and a barn owl is nocturnal so most certainly not a suitable night-time companion. Shun them all and instead stick with your tried and trusted Ted for a blissful sleep in bed.
Delightfully dotty and made all the more so by Parker-Rees’s illustrations. His glowing colours are gorgeous, the scenes hilarious and the, oh so endearing cast of characters he portrays, make one immediately want to ignore the advice and snuggle up with all of them – well maybe not the shark on second thoughts.
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That Dog!
Gillian Shields and Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Unloved, indeed virtually unnoticed, the Jones’ family dog is thoroughly miserable. So, determined to get some attention, he ups and leaves home. But then what is a hungry dog to do? Get a job, he decides and tries his hand or rather paws at washing up, taxi driving, farm working, litter picking, fire fighting, nursing and more.


Eventually our canine pal is not only skilled, but also very knowledgeable. It’s then that the Jones spot their erstwhile pet on a TV talent show but of course, it’s too late; that amazing dog now has plenty of people to give him love and friendship.
Believe in yourself and you are unstoppable is the message that dog sends out loud and clear in this off-beat story. The illustrations abound with pattern and there is much else to entertain in the detail too.
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There’s a Shark in the Bath
Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic pbk.
Join Dulcie in a riotous bathroom farce wherein she discovers not one, but three sharks in the bath full of cold water left overnight by her dad. Now being breakfast time, Papa, Mama and Baby Shark have just one thing in mind and you can guess what that is. Quick-thinking Dulcie however, has others. First there’s the ‘Brushety-Brush Game’ with the toothpaste,


then the ‘Wiggety-Wig Game’ involving masses of pink bubbles, hastily followed by the ‘Happy-Wrappy-Uppie Game’ an excellent diversion that results in a very large entanglement of sharks and toilet paper. No mess at all, she assures Dad who is anxiously waiting outside the door; so then one final game is called for. PHEW! Time for breakfast – Dulcie’s not the sharks’ I hasten to add . . .


Wonderfully silly both verbally and visually. The wacky, over the top or rather, over the edge, bathroom scenes are cleverly so nearly catastrophic and are a perfect match for the tongue-in-cheek telling.
A brilliant one to share with individuals or groups large and small.
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Gracie is highly amused at the exploits of Aldrin and friends

The Great Moon Confusion
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
Raccoon Aldrin is something of a know-all; he impresses his friends Fox, Rabbit and Woodpecker, but he’s not quite as clever as he likes to think. So, one night when Rabbit asks why the moon has changed its shape, too embarrassed to admit he doesn’t know, Aldrin proposes an investigation. A week later, with some clues provided by his friends, he concludes, erroneously, that the bears, Hubble and Lovell, are engaged in moon theft.


The truth however is something far more constructive.
One cannot help but laugh at, but also have a little sympathy for, self-elected expert, Aldrin who does, before this funny tale is out, learn an awful lot, not only about the moon but also about showing off, jumping to hasty conclusions,


accusing, and apologising and perhaps most importantly, about friendship, as he engages in one hilarious, blunder-making situation after another.
Get hold of this book for its hilarious story and wonderful illustrations, I love the endpapers too. Also, embedded within, is some basic information about the moon that young listeners will absorb effortlessly.
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Nursery Time
Mij Kelly and Mary McQuillan
Hodder Children’s Books
The animals are bemused: Suzy Sue has disappeared. They search high and low to no avail and then cow discovers a sign – Sunshine Nursery. That’s where she has gone. The animals pay a visit and discover what a wonderful place it is; but is it so good Suzy Sue will never want to return to her farmyard pals? The animals hatch a plan and enter the nursery in disguise intending to take her home right away. That was the plan but the place is such fun that they want to stay too playing with the sand, water, bouncy balls, building blocks and much more.


But, ‘oh my goodness’ their cover is blown; Suzy Sue spots them and tells them it’s a children only environment. Quickly though, she explains “I’m not going to live here, I just come every day. I play for a while and then go away.” Much relieved cow, sheep and the others return home with another plan in mind. Then it’s a case of home from home…
A reassuring, indeed enticing view of nursery is portrayed (not sure about the bookshelf though) in this amusing, rhyming tale. There are plenty of details for those already at nursery to spot and enjoy; those yet to start should be filled with eager anticipation. Adults too will enjoy the visual humour especially those who have spent time in a nursery.
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Boris Gets Spots
Carrie Weston and Tim Warnes
Oxford University Press pbk
This is the fourth Boris adventure. Herein his teacher makes an exciting announcement: Mr Gander from Gosling farm is coming to pay the class a visit. There is great excitement with everyone except Boris who merely wants to stay quietly in the book corner. When the special visitor arrives, Miss Cluck and her class go outside and enthusiastically experience all Mr Gander has to offer until Boris’s absence is discovered. Back to the classroom goes Fergus and then comes the cry, ‘Boris is covered with spots!’ Back they all dash to find a red -spotted Boris looking very sorry for himself. ‘Chicken Pox” announces Miss Cluck who fortunately knows just what to do.


Before long though, she has an epidemic, not to mention an empty classroom on her hands. Time to put that honey cookies recipe to good use with the delicious ingredients Mr Gander left them.
Those who work in early years will immediately relate to this one. On several occasions I’ve had my nursery or reception class decimated by a chicken pox epidemic, perhaps not quite all at once as is the case here however. Authorial license notwithstanding though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable story to share with young children with or without the dreaded spots. There is so much to explore in relation to the food items and other things Mr Gander brings to show Boris’s class.
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