An Odd Dog Christmas

An Odd Dog Christmas
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

What joy! – a festive foray into the world of the wonderful divergent dachshund Odd Dog.
It’s Christmas Eve and said mutt is on a mission to find the perfect present for a special friend but after a day of shopping, time has almost run out. What on earth can I do, thinks Odd Dog wandering through the silent streets, when there in front of her eyes is a sign that calls.

In she walks to a true winter wonderland complete with gingerbread, candy canes and jolly elves; but there’s one creature that looks far from festive. It’s a very poorly reindeer admitting reluctantly, “I’m far too ill to pull the sleigh.”
There’s just one thing Odd Dog can do and before you can say ‘presents’ there before her is Santa. Of course, there’s the perfect solution.

With the night flight duly done, Odd Dog is still left without a present for her friend: Santa offers some words of advice. and then light bulb moment …

On Christmas morning our favourite pooch offers her pal something that reveals the true meaning of Christmas …

Wonderfully illustrated in gloriously rich hues and oodles of gentle cosy seasonal humour, this is one of those Christmas books that sends a warm tingle all through you.

Show and Tell

Show and Tell
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

I’m delighted to tell you that this piece of rhyming brilliance from Rob Biddulph is a February paperback publication – be sure not to miss it if you haven’t got the hardback.

How Rob does it time after time I can’t quite fathom, but the guy is surely a genius when it comes to picture books.

He sets this story in the classroom and he zooms us right there with the opening credits page with its trolley full of named drawers.

Having met the class in question 2L who so we’re told, are ‘excited’ we’re introduced to their teacher Mr Lumsden as he announces what they’ve all been waiting for – a show and tell session. “The child that impresses me most wins a prize,” he says.

Now there’s rabid competitiveness in 2L as is very quickly evident, but things begin quite simply with Adam and his lowly sunflower seed.

This is immediately poo-pooed by another class member as being “BORING!” She has something far superior, so she thinks – a tin of blue spaghetti.

Very soon the event turns in to an ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ competition as the items brought – goodness knows how – begin to escalate. We see a red robot, a racing car, immediately followed by an alligator,

and a space ship complete with alien operator, Zorg. Then we have Big Ben, out-bigged by a flaming volcano

and wait for it – the MOON!

There follows a totally unexpected, added bit of out of this world wackiness, before Mr Lumsden finally picks the winner.

Thereafter comes a brilliant twist that shows us all something really important. On this matter I’ll say no more.

When I was a class teacher, I never had ‘show-and-tell’ sessions for the very reason that Rob has so cleverly and humorously shown and told with his 2L.

Flat Stanley / The Flat Stanley Collection

Flat Stanley
Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph

I was over the moon to learn that Flat Stanley was to appear in picture book form, especially with Rob Biddulph as illustrator. I could think of no better person for the task and Rob has most certainly pulled it off with aplomb.

Just in case you’ve never come across Stanley Lambchop and his family before, let me introduce them: there’s young Stanley, his younger brother Arthur and their parents Mr and Mrs Lambchop who can be a tad fussy when it comes to matters of politeness and talking properly.

So when a huge pin board hurtles from the wall totally flattening Stanley, they’re more concerned about Arthur’s manner of delivering the news about his brother than the contents of same. Indeed they defer a doctor’s visit until after breakfast.

Happily it’s good news: Dr Dan is reassuring and so the now half inch thick boy can start to take advantage of his lack of girth, though there are snags too.

Next day news of another art theft reaches the ears of Stanley and his dad as they’re out for a stroll.

Stanley has a bright idea that just might help apprehend the thieves and that night it’s put into action: will he pull it off?

Yes Stanley does save the day – or rather the object of the thieves’ desire.

But perhaps being a hero of the extra-skinny kind isn’t all fun and flattery …

I can’t remember how many years ago I first shared the original Flat Stanley book with a class of children but it was certainly a long time back and it’s remained a favourite with me, and many more classes since. Now with this smashing picture book version of the first story, a younger audience can savour the delights of the flat but inflatable, Stanley in the new Rob Biddulph incarnation.

Rob has also illustrated a bumper collection of Stanley Stories:

The Flat Stanley Collection
Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph

This chunky volume contains six Stanley books – the first, together with Stanley and the Magic Lamp, Invisible Stanley, Stanley’s Christmas Adventure, Stanley in Space and Stanley, Flat Again!

Guaranteed hours of delicious Stanleyness with plenty of “Hay is for horses, not people” thrown in for extra enjoyment.

Wide Awake / Creature Features:Dinosaurs

Wide Awake
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

This is Rob Biddulph’s third in the Dinosaur Juniors series that’s bound to delight your dino-littles.

The stars of this particular nocturnal show are Winnie – the wide awake one and Otto whom she wakes up to tell she cannot sleep.

Otto once roused has a simple plan in the form of a soothing lullaby and it goes like this:

Easy peasy: job done! Not quite; Winnie is still wide awake, so maybe a memory game that requires recalling everything they did during the day … a doddle surely.

But no; wide eyed she remains.

Third time lucky then? Counting sheep never fails … success! One deeply sleeping twin sister. Shame she snores ….

Hilarious, and delivered in Rob’s faultless rhyming and priceless pictorial style, this is the perfect read-to-your-little-ones tale, be it or be it not bedtime; and you certainly won’t find yourself nodding off as you share it; rather you’ll end up hoarse after repeated re-reads. Bring on the fourth book say I.

And if your dino-tinies can’t get enough of their favourite creatures then try:

Creature Features:Dinosaurs
Natasha Durley
Big Picture Press

This over-sized board book is brimming over with prehistoric beasties of the ‘Humongous horns’ variety, as well as those with ‘Terrifying teeth’, ‘Wonderful wings’, ‘Hefty head crests’, ‘Brilliant beaks’, ‘Amazing armour’,

not to mention ‘Fabulous flippers’, exceedingly long necks, ‘Super sails & spines’, ‘Creepy claws’ and ‘Fantastic fur’.

Illustrated with super-bright colours and splendid shapes, these creatures will make your little ones pause and linger over every spread to learn lots of new names, hone their observation skills and learn some dino-facts along the way.

Give Peas a Chance (Dinosaur Juniors)

Give Peas a Chance (Dinosaur Juniors)
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Hurrah! There’s a whole story starring Nancy, one of the Dinosaur Juniors brigade we first met playing a bit part, strumming her guitar in Greg’s Happy Hatchday tale.

Yes that little dino-guy does put in an appearance too in the form of a co-consumer of Nancy’s unwanted peas. The problem being Nancy detests all things green so when she’s called in for her dinner

and told in no uncertain terms that she can’t go out and join her pals until her plate is empty, peas and all, she just has to cook up a quick plan.

As Greg passes beneath her window, Nancy utters these words loud and clear, “Mmmm, peas! / I’d eat them all day long. / Dad says they’ll make me / super strong.

This utterance immediately has Greg salivating and asking for a share, which of course Nancy is only too willing to provide.

A similar thing happens when Sue comes along and her desire, as Nancy knows, is to be super speedy so all she needs to do is alter her pea praising poem to include the words “super fast” and Sue too is at the ready to receive a forkful of the little green veggies.

Chess-playing Otto is likewise attracted to the window and Nancy’s promise of the bestowal of super smartness upon those that consume those little green balls, so he cannot wait for a brain-boosting mouthful.

Now Nancy’s plate is completely clean. Mission accomplished and off she can go to play …

Err, maybe not quite yet, for Dad is about to become the bearer of some good news.

Again a super-stylish Rob Biddulph feast for ears and eyes, not to mention taste buds: those vibrant colours, especially the green hues are just SO appetisingly alluring.

Absolutely brilliant, the prehistoric pals do it once more: I wonder which of the dino-littles will star in the next of the series. Will it be Sue, or Otto; or perhaps Winnie, Wilf, Hector, Martin or Boo? There will be a huge number of fans waiting in eager anticipation after consuming this rhyming treat.

Dinosaur Juniors Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors Happy Hatchday
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

A new Rob Biddulph picture book is always cause for celebration at Red Reading Hub and so it is with this one which, by all accounts is the first of a cracking new series – no apologies for the pun as this clever rhyming tale begins with the hatching of Otto, Winnie, Hector, Sue, Nancy, Martin, Wilf and Boo.
Oops! I nearly forgot the last out, Greg (short for Gregosaurus); he appears on the scene a whole week after his fellow batchlings.
By that time all the other recent hatchlings have firmly established themselves; some appear to have an artistic bent,

others are chefs, musicians

and, wait for it, balloon inflaters.

Will poor, miserable looking Greg find his place anywhere among the dino-dudes? Can you see the tears?

Perhaps your young audience will by this stage be anticipating the possibility of a surprise finale, if so they won’t be disappointed.

The book is great fun to share with dino-littles at home or nursery: a read-aloud dino-delight splendidly illustrated with lots to explore on every spread including things to count; it’s funny and with its faultless rhyming narrative, oh so re-readable


Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins

Sid Gibbons and trouble seem to go hand in hand: first it’s smashing the birdbath with his ball; then forgetting to put the tops back on his pens; his bedroom resembles a ‘pigsty’ and now his dinner is all over the floor. Needless to say, his mum is less than happy. But, none of this is Sid’s fault: no it’s Kevin’s.
And who is Kevin you might be thinking; he’s Sid’s friend. The pink spotted, vanilla furred pal with a single tooth and a tendency for clumsiness who comes through a hatch in his bedroom ceiling when Sid feels lonely, so he tells his mum, who naturally is having none of this ‘make-believe friend.’
Make-believe? Through that ceiling hatch there shines a light – a light of vanilla and pink striped rays: up the stairs goes Sid to be confronted by a truly amazing sight – a magical world filled with strange beasties…

Now though, the boot is on the other foot, so to speak: Sid is the invisible being here and this gives him an idea. Uh-oh!

As a result however, it also gives him an opportunity to question his actions: is it fair to blame your misdemeanours on a friend, albeit an imaginary one?
Time to make reparation – first to Kevin and then to his very own Mum …

All this and more is delivered through Rob Biddulph’s faultless rhyming narrative – a longish one – and his equally superb visuals. For the latter he moves from the monochromes of Sid’s reality to the glorious rainbow hues of Kevin’s kingdom. Fans of the author’s previous works will delight in guest appearances from Fred, the bear from Grrrrr!; Blown Away’s Blue and the occasional Odd Dog dachshund.

And, those beastie inhabitants of Kevin’s world, be they hairy, slimy, leggy or frilly, are splendid. As for Sid, he’s a totally believable character, full of mischief and absolutely adorable – I’m pretty sure I’ve taught him somewhere along the line; many times over in fact.
All this while exploring ideas about imaginary friends and the notion of facing up to the consequences of our own actions, which is so subtly embedded into the tale – genius!


Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Yet another Biddulph bobby-dazzler and it comes in the form of a second Penguin Blue (from Blown Away) adventure.
Donning pirate gear, Penguin Blue, along with his penguin pals, Jeff and Flo, and polar bear, Clive, set out, armed with a map, on a nautical treasure-seeking trip.

Pretty soon though, they find themselves in trouble and have to abandon ship.

The result being, they land up on a tiny island and come face-to-face with an old sea dog who seems eager to make their acquaintance: “My name is Captain Walker Plank. / Been stuck here since my galleon sank.” The very galleon that Blue and his piratical pals had recently discovered on the ocean bed. Are they all to be stuck on the same tiny island now? Of course not: Blue knows just what’s needed …

Then, lo and behold (cue audience join in) “THAR SHE BLOWS!” … Off they go, and it’s homeward bound, with something much more precious than that gold they’ve bagged.

I’ll unreservedly second that final ‘Fun times with/ buddies, new and old. // That’s treasure worth/ much more than gold.‘ comment as the pals feast their eyes upon their wonderful new play equipment.
A deliciously swashbuckling, rhyming saga, dazzlingly illustrated and with Biddulph’s signature style design brilliance. Treasure indeed. What more can a story reader ask for?
A must for the family bookshelf; ditto, anyone who works with young children.

I’ve signed the charter 

Odd Dog Out

Odd Dog Out
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Here’s a splendiferous book about being yourself, happy in your own skin and most important, being an individual unafraid of being different. I was blown right away by Rob Biddulph’s debut picture book, growled in delight at his second offering and this is every bit as good, and better.
As a divergent thinker who refuses to conform I was totally hooked by the time I reached here …

That this small dog just doesn’t quite sing from the same song sheet as all the other dogs …


causes her such sadness she decides to up and leave her home town and strike out alone …

which she does, travelling until she reaches Doggywood. But is this the right place for our canine pal? There certainly seem to be a lot of others looking just like her …

But it’s not being like those same-looking others that convince Odd Dog she’s perfectly fine just as she is; it’s an encounter with another who is totally at home with her own difference that convinces her that her heart and home are right back where she came from. Being happy with who and what you are, is the important thing: let the rest of the world accommodate you and perhaps even celebrate yours and everyone’s uniqueness …

Super-brilliant stuff, Rob Biddulph: you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head with this one. ‘ … blaze a trail. Be who you are.’ What better message to give children, and indeed adults, than this. Cracking rhyming text and illustrations: a MUST have for every family and classroom.


Ursine Talent: GRRRRR! and One Bear Extraordinaire

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Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Grizzly bear Fred is the star of the show: he’s been Best Bear in the Wood for three years and is unbeatable at growling. Or is he? Well, he’s determined to be champ once again and so training becomes his everything; there’s just no time for friendship, he declares.
Enter Boris, new bear in town reputed to have a GRRRRR to beat all GRRRRs and determined to knock Fred off his throne.

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And, he seems to be taken with nocturnal wandering …

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Come competition morn and disaster has struck, Fred awakes roarless. But despite his strict training regime, it seems he’s not without friends after all. First there’s Eugene a young owl ready and willing to help Fred track down his missing roar.

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A search ensues but it yields a big zilch.
The hour of the contest arrives. Despite being roarless, Fred has his supporters and after three rounds the contest is neck and neck …

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But then comes that crucial round with Boris, having first growl and it looks like a winner …

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That is definitely not the end of this corker of a book, but without spoiling the story finale let’s just say it ends satisfactorily for all concerned.
I just love those bits of throwaway humour in Biddulph’s splendid rhyming text
The sound is so loud that it makes Boris jump –
And look what just fell to the ground with a bump!
which, when combined with his visuals are just priceless. What a talent.

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One Bear Extraordinaire
Jayme McGowan
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Meet Bear, an itinerant entertainer of legendary repute, known for his ‘honey harmonies and twinkle-toed grace.’ One day when working on a new song however, he decides “Something is missing,” and sets off in search of this elusive ingredient. As he travels, he encounters a whole host of musicians one after another and each one joins him “wherever the tune leads”.

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Eventually the ever-growing band discovers a Wolf Pup has tagged along. He too is keen to become a band member but lacks an instrument. Bear offers something from his sack but Wolf Cub just cannot get to grips with any of them …

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and as a last resort Bear suggests the kazoo: “Anyone can play it.” he mistakenly tells the despairing little chap.
But it’s as the others practise in the moonlit campsite that night, that Wolf Cub suddenly discovers he has a vocal talent like no other

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and, it’s just what’s needed to make everything finally sound ‘just right’.
There’s a pleasing musical lilt to Jayme McGowan’s text: ‘he watched the music SWIRL and HOVER across the ridge … ECHO through the canyon … and fill the sky as he and his wayfaring band whooped and hollered their song to the stars.’ But it’s her wonderful illustrations – three-dimensional scenes composed from individual painted cut-outs, that are arranged and photographed in situ – that are the real show-stealers.
A picture book debut of great promise.

Use your local bookshop    localbookshops_NameImage-2

Testing Situations with Mouse, Penguin Blue and Rhinoceros

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All Mine
Zehra Hicks
Macmillan Children’s Books
It’s lunch time: Mouse is just about to embark on his cheese sandwich when down swoops Seagull, pinches it,

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flies off and scoffs the lot. Mouse is far from pleased; he reprimands the thief for his bad manners and dashes off in search of something else to eat. Imagine how he feels when down swoops that greedy Seagull again and proceeds to polish off Mouse’s entire packet of crisps.

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The tiny rodent is anything but happy and both he and Seagull are still in need of sustenance. So will Seagull manage to gobble up the delicious looking confection that stops him dead in his tracks? It’s time for Mouse to draw on his resources if he’s to outwit that marauding bird and satisfy his hunger pangs, and that he does very cleverly.
That foxy-looking ‘puppet’ is just great and looks almost exactly the kind of thing young children make from scrap materials.

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That Zahra Hicks uses a stick for painting (combined with photography) to create her illustrations fascinated my audiences. I love her child-like simplicity and the way for instance, she has added the lower jaw to the fox.
A tasty book through and through. Who’s for cake?

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Blown Away
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins pbk
This seemingly simple, perfectly crafted tale is the thoroughly uplifting picture book debut from Art Director of the Observer Magazine, Rob Biddulph. By an interesting co-incidence, my copy arrived in the post on Sakrant, the day of India’s kite flying festival.
Far away in the Antarctic, Penguin Blue is test flying his brand new kite. The wind is particularly strong and before long our supposedly flightless friend finds himself airborne. Penguin pals Jeff and Flo, Wilbur (seal) pegging washing on his clothesline, and Clive, (polar bear) out fishing in his inflatable dinghy, attempt to help

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but they too are swept aloft and way across the ocean until they spy far below,
A tiny island, lush and green/(A colour that they’ve never seen). “The trees look soft, we’ll be all right./Hello jungle! Goodbye kite!” – the author’s rhyme is spot on as well as his design. Down they cascade into a jungly landscape full of friendly animals.

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However, unused to the tropical heat the friends long for home so it’s fortunate that Blue is the creative type. They can make use of the resources to hand and the same element that brought them there: all that’s required is another large gust of wind

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and the travellers are on their way, albeit with a stowaway.
Safely home and a warm welcome, but their visitor finds the climate far from comfortable;


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it’s as well then that Blue just happens to have a spare kite …


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Preposterous Rhinoceros
Tracy Gunaratnam and Marta Costa
Maverick Arts Publising pbk
The jungle animals are far from happy; King Lion has lost his voice and that means no bedtime story unless they can find another story reader. Rhinoceros is eager to step in; the others doubt his ability but reluctantly agree to let him try. When confronted with a book however, Rhinoceros is stymied; seemingly he’s misunderstood how the reading process works – the words don’t just speak themselves from the page and his key doesn’t unlock that text either. And shaking the book is disastrous.
Off goes Rhino in search of some storytelling advice. Both Drama Llama and Techie Toucan offer useful suggestions “Just open it and dive straight in,” (Llama) and “Just open it and get stuck in,”

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from Techie.
But Rhinoceros takes both literally with disastrous, or rather as Sly Salamander tells him, “preposterous” consequences.

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Nor does her own explanation “… They just need to be READ!” prove any more fruitful. But finally with Salamander’s help,

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Rhinoceros cracks the code and is ready to deliver his first bedtime tale – even though by that time, King Lion’s voice is fully restored.
The interaction of the verbal and visual definitely works well with young audiences. This chain of misunderstandings herein had my listeners, who are themselves learning to read, in fits of giggles
Buy from Amazon
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Don’t forget February 14th ibgdposterlarge