1,2,3, Do the Shark / The Horse that Jumped

These are two picture books ideal for bedtime sharing kindly sent for review from Farshore

1,2,3, Do the Shark
Michelle Robinson and Rosalind Beardshaw

Get ready for a bit of funky action deep beneath the ocean where Bess’s fishy pals are somewhat disturbed by a storm. Not so Bess though; clad in her shark attire, she urges them all to join her in a bit of boogieing. “Copy me and do the shark!” she says performing the appropriate moves

until all the sea creatures are joining in with the stretching, fin waving, tail swishing and generally strutting their stuff.

That achieved, it’s time to take a dive down deeper, right to the ocean bed where something rather scary is peering out from the mouth of a cave.

Crab gives a Shark alert. Time to take evasive action suggests Bess and so they do.

But perhaps that shark isn’t as scary as they first thought? Has he another reason for watching them so closely perhaps …

With a lovely switch from imagined to real, the story has a perfect ending 1,2,3 zzzzz.
An ideal pre bedtime book for those around little Bess’s age told in Michelle’s splendidly readable rhyming text and through Rosalind’s delightful mainly subaquatic, scenes.

The Horse that Jumped
Thomas Docherty

This is a thoroughly enchanting tale of a little girl and a horse that jumps and keeps on jumping. It jumps over a flower, over a rock, over a fence, out of its field, across a steam, over a bench and through an open window right into the girl’s bedroom.

On jumps said girl and off they go right out into the world, galloping and then jumping through a series of richly illustrated scenes of mountains, sea

and skyscapes

until the girl falls fast asleep, is transported back to her own bed and thence into dreamland.

With mounting excitement, so evident in the eyes of girl and horse, as the journey moves from location to location, Thomas Docherty, tells this exhilarating story of freedom and friendship using relatively few well chosen words, leaving his gorgeous illustrations of a fabulous flight of fancy to do most of the talking. It’s impossible not to feel that joyful freeing sense of movement be you listener or reader aloud: what a splendid celebration of the power of the imagination.

When a Dragon Meets a Baby

When a Dragon Meets a Baby
Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

In the third story of this series, the lovable little dragon protagonist has a new baby sibling. But what will her reactions be? She might act all huffily and puffily resorting to a lot of slumping and grumping to gain the attention of Mummy and Daddy dragon. On the other hand she might just share her snuggliest toy, fetch the changing mat and nappies when baby has a leaky bottom and help find clean clothes.

Then when others pay a visit will big sis. be a pest or will she show baby’s things to the guests? Poor exhausted Mummy dragon will sometimes be in need of a quick nap but what will happen then? Noisy stomping and a romping or quiet house-tidying and story-sharing with Dad?

Behaving like the perfect older sibling is going to be a challenge and nobody – not even little dragons, can keep their fire inside all the time, surely.

Told in Caryl’s read-aloud-able rhyme, this is a fun, reassuring book that presents the conflicting emotions arising when a new baby arrives in the family and is pitch perfect for little humans who have recently or are about to become big brothers or sisters. Never mentioning a right way but merely offering a little dragon’s way, really works again here and Rosalind Beardshaw’s captivating illustrations showing what happens in this particular family are an absolute delight.

Board Book Christmas

Just Right for Christmas
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

A board book version of a Christmas favourite from a few years ago unfolods over two days.

It begins on a snowy Christmas Eve with the king walking around the market. His purchase of a roll of beautiful red cloth to make a cloak for his daughter results in the left-over scraps of fabric being placed outside the back door.  Jenny the kitchen maid finds them and makes  a jacket for her ma. The remaining scraps are turned into a hat for Bertie Badger’s pa, then gloves for Samuel Squirrel’s wife and a scarf for Milly Mouse’s little one, and all just in time for Christmas Day.

A warm, feel-good story ‘… just how Christmas should feel’ celebrating the pleasures of giving, made all the more so with Rosalind Beardshaw’s, mixed media illustrations that help stitch the narrative together beautifully.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In this board book, using two enchanting elf characters and her trademark die-cut collage style illustrations, Britta Teckentrup presents a favourite seasonal song aimed at the very youngest listeners. As the song progresses, one verse per spread, the gift is revealed through the cut out. Then on the fourth day additional die-cuts are used to accommodate the 4 colly birds and so on until the eleventh day. On day twelve all the gifts are revealed around the tree on the recto while in the bottom corner on the verso the elves give each other a Christmas kiss.

Just right for tiny hands and there’s plenty of counting fun to be had too.

Wake up, Santa!
illustrated by Pintachan
Words & Pictures

With cleverly designed paper engineering and digital illustrations, this bright, jolly interactive board book will get little ones and their sharers in festive mood as they waken in turn Santa, the elves, Rudolph and a teddy bear.

There are things to find, name, count and talk about all in a tiny, fun-filled ‘Little Faces’ package.

Christmas is Awesome!
Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters go to town to demonstrate the veracity of their latest board book’s title.

Popping with neon pink, Eunice provides lively scenes of assorted animals getting into the festive spirit with ‘twinkling lights, silent nights, being nice ‘(of course) and much more.

Humorous touches abound with ‘ugly sweaters’, a dachshund sporting one such takes the opportunity to get beneath the mistletoe and bestow a long-tongued lick upon the cat’s beaming countenance; and don’t miss the lump of coal getting in on the act by knitting itself a sweater from ‘darkest black abyss’ yarn. And the nativity scene is priceless: Mary and Joseph are two birds looking benevolently upon their newborn baby Jesus – a haloed egg.

Sabrina’s rhyming narrative orchestrates the celebrations concluding thus: ‘Joy and kindness, love and fun, Christmas is for everyone!’ Their portrayal is certainly a whole lot of fun.

Busy Reindeer
illustrated by Samantha Meredith
Campbell Books

As an adult reads the rhyming couplets, little fingers can manipulate the sliders to activate Santa’s reindeer Ruby, then watch the sleigh take flight over a snowy landscape, help Santa down the chimney and finally, open the stable door for him to thank and bid goodnight to his number one helper. All of this is illustrated in Samantha Meredith’s bright, jolly scenes of a busy Christmas delivery round.

Lulu’s First Day / Butterflies on the First Day of School

Lulu’s First Day
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Max

Lulu is starting pre-school and she’s already been well prepared. There have been lots of story time sessions at the library, a visit to the school, and special gifts from Nana and Tayo that she’ll use regularly for school.

She’s even chosen her clothes for the next day and packed extras in her new bag – just in case.

The big day dawns, everybody is up early and with a pause for a quick photo, off she goes with her mum.

There’s a warm welcome from her teacher and Lulu is soon enjoying all that nursery has to offer.

Almost before you can say, ‘circle time’, there she is on the carpet with all her friends and the grown-ups are waiting outside eager to hear of those new experiences.

Yes, its’ been a tiring day, but Lulu can’t wait for tomorrow …

With all the reassurance that little ones need, Anna McQuinn and Ros. Beardshaw present the pitch perfect book for those who, like Lulu, are about to take those next steps into pre-school.

Butterflies on the First Day of School
Annie Silvestro and Dream Chen
Sterling Children’s Books

An enchanting fanciful take on a well-known figure of speech is presented in this story of first day nerves.

Rosie has been eagerly anticipating starting school for a whole month but on the night before her big day, doubts creep in and next morning she announces that she doesn’t feel well.

Her mum tells her it’s just butterflies in her tummy and when she sits chatting rather nervously on the school bus to another new girl, butterflies (seen only by Rosie) flutter from her mouth. Now she understands her mum’s puzzling comment.

More butterflies are released, also seen only by Rosie, every time she opens her mouth in the classroom during that first session,

until by playtime her tummy is less rumbly and she can barely feel any more butterflies.

Out go the children to play, Rosie feeling pretty confident now. Then she notices another little girl standing alone under a tree, hands on her tummy. Rosie introduces herself and when the forlorn-looking girl speaks, a cloud of butterflies come fluttering from her mouth.

With its bold bright butterfly images this is a lovely warm story that will reassure little ones who like Rosie are starting school imminently, along with adults who may well share that first day feeling.

My Pet Star / Little Fish

My Pet Star
Corrinne Averiss and Rosalind Beardshaw
Orchard Books

Beneath a tree one night, a little girl discovers a star. The star has been hurt by its fall and its glow has gone, so she takes him home.

There she acts as a ‘cosmic super vet’ tenderly nurturing her ‘pet’ star, sharing books with him

and cuddling up with him at bedtime.

The days go by and the young narrator finds out a great deal about her star and his habits and all the while, the star glows brighter. She misses him during the day when he sleeps a lot; and he eschews her games merely looking on silently and benevolently.

At night though, he comes to life, his sparkle preventing the girl from sleeping as he twinkles above her bed – until she makes a decision.

Leaping from her bed she opens wide her window and … whoosh! Away flies her astral friend, fully restored, back into the dark sky where he belongs, from there to brighten up the sky and his new friend’s life from afar.

Corrinne’s magical story demonstrates the importance of kindness, altruism and friendship; it’s beautifully illuminated by Ros. Beardshaw in her mixed media scenes. Her narrator is shown as an adorable child who seems to live alone in a shepherd’s hut or travellers’ caravan.

Little Fish
Emily Rand
Thames & Hudson

Five vibrant, layered neon scenes of life beneath the ocean waves pop out of this book, the covers of which can be tied back to create a standing carousel.

A short rhyming narrative introduces two orange goby fish playing among the corals. The duo become separated when a large shoal swims past sweeping one of them with it, into a dark patch of kelp in which rests a friendly-looking turtle.

Less friendly though is the hungry grouper that lurks in the cave nearby eyeing the little goby. Then, even more scarifying are the white teeth of a marauding shark that appears on the scene snapping its jaws threateningly.

Happily though, the little fish finally makes it back home where it re-joins its playmate on the reef.

A lovely way to introduce your little ones to marine life, but equally this would be great as part of an early years display for a sea-related theme.

When a Dragon Comes to Stay

When a Dragon Comes to Stay
Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

When a scaly creature turns up at number 124 with a shoulder bag it looks as though she’s there for the long haul. Perhaps though, she does need some guidance when it comes to good behaviour.

Snatching toys rather than sharing; breaking the rules in a supposed-to-be co-operative set-up; cheating and messy eating; all these need attending to; so its fortunate for this particular little dragon that she’s found some small, kind, friendly residents ready and willing to lead the way as positive role models:
‘And does she snatch and keep the toys / away from other girls and boys? //Why, no! / Dragons don’t do that! // A dragon knows she must play fair / And wait her turn and always share. / She knows the rules of all the games / and never argues or complains …’

Caryl cleverly alternates the undesirable with the desirable behaviours in a rhyming narrative that gently guides without preaching (in the same way, one hopes teachers/parents model what they hope to see rather than drawing attention to the misdemeanours of little ones).

And of course, allowances need to be made for nobody’s perfect, and certainly not little dragons.
I particularly like the sequence where the dragon’s messy eating is helped when she’s given a stable seat.

In her wonderfully expressive scenes of the adorable humans and their visitor, Ros. brings out the gentle humour in Caryl’s telling, showing how hard the little dragon is trying to behave appropriately.

Altogether a smashing book to share with little humans at home, or in an early years setting.

Toppsta have created some very useful reading records for schools: for further details follow the link.

Board Book Shelf

Hidden Animals
Find the Wolf

Agnese Baruzzi
Templar Publishing
Here are two wonderfully playful board books from Italian artist, Agnese Baruzzi.
In the former, the peep-through die-cut pages beguile readers with a series of different coloured shapes which, when the page is turned become transformed into in turn, a bird, a fox, a bug, a cat,

a dog, a jellyfish and a lion.
Part of the fun, once children have worked out what is happening, is to guess the animal from the coloured background on the left-hand side before the page is turned. I was wrong on a couple of occasions.
Find the Wolf takes readers on a hunt for a ”WANTED’ wolf . As we walk through the woods we see for instance, two pointy ears or a set of grey paws. Or are they?
Here Baruzzi uses two die-cut circles on each right hand page and by asking such questions as ‘Are those his eyes?’

leads us to believe’ that behind them the missing lupine lurks. But on turning over we see something completely different.

The elusive creature (or traces of same) is actually lurking somewhere on every recto which further adds to the delicious hide and seek element.

Up and Down
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This lovely board book, published in partnership with the National Trust is Rosalind Beardshaw’s latest addition to her A Walk in the Countryside series.
Winter has well and truly arrived; so the two small friends don warm clothes and boots before setting off into the great snowy outdoors.
Then it’s Up hill and Down on their sledges, followed by on foot encounters with a variety of creatures both feathered and furry

as they spend a wonderful day together savouring the delights of their rural romp.
There’s plenty to enjoy and discuss with toddlers in addition to the inbuilt ‘opposites’ the minimal text offers.

Bizzy Bear Ambulance Rescue
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will delight in making the ‘nee-naw’ ambulance sounds and manipulating the moving parts in the new Bizzy Bear board book.
Bizzy Bear assumes the role of paramedic in his latest episode and he’s responding to an emergency call out. A little cat has had a cycling accident and Bizzy rushes to the scene where he helps lift the patient into the ambulance

which then rushes the injured kitty to hospital where he’s treated for what looks like a broken leg. Short and sweet!

It’s Time for Bed

A Bear Hug at Bedtime
Jana Novotny Hunter and Kay Widdowson
Child’s Play
Imaginative play rules in this enchanting pre-bedtime romp: snuggle up and prepare for a bedtime hug or two.
A small child meets a variety of animals, large and small as bedtime approaches or does she? Look again and we see that in fact something entirely different is happening as she imagines various members of her family as animals: Gran morphs into a stripy tiger, Mum becomes a monkey,

her little brothers a lizard and a lobster. And Dad? He’s a huge hairy bear just waiting to leap out and engulf his daughter with a wonderfully warm, goodnight hug. Gorgeous!
Beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated and SO full of heart, it’s perfect for bedtime sharing.

Babies Can Sleep Anywhere
Lisa Wheeler and Carolina Búzio
Abrams Appleseed
There’s a distinct retro look and pleasing pattern to this languorous rhyming look at sleeping places. ‘Bats take a nap in a cave upside down. / Hay is a bed for a mare. // Wolves cuddle up in a den ‘neath the ground./ But babies can sleep anywhere.’
This three animals followed by one human infant pattern is used throughout the book until the final spread. This shows an array of sleeping human babes all looking totally blissful.

It’s good to see a mix of well-known and less familiar animals included, as well as the variety of human families on the final pages. Carolina Búzio’s bold colour palette is gorgeous.

I See the Moon
illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
For this delightful bedtime sharing book, Rosalind Beardshaw has illustrated sixteen popular rhymes, lullabies and poems (mostly anonymous but with poems by J.M.Westrup, Thomas Hood and Robert Louis Stevenson).
Populating her moonlit world with adorable children, foxes, squirrels, mice and other small creatures set in scenes generously embellished with silver and gold,

Beardshaw makes each spread sparkles with colour, light and nocturnal enchantment.

Barkus / Lulu Gets a Cat

Barkus
Patricia Maclachlan and Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books
Meet large brown dog, Barkus, “Smartest dog in the whole world.” So says globetrotting Uncle Everton when he arrives on the doorstep one day with what he calls “a present” for the young narrator, his niece Nicky. Nicky is reassured to learn that Barkus doesn’t bite and thus begins a beautiful friendship.
Over the next four short chapters we learn how Barkus follows Nicky to school and is adopted as the class dog; celebrates his birthday in a very noisy manner;

discovers a kitten and is allowed to keep it, naming it Baby; and finally, camps out for the night and enjoys an autobiographical story by torchlight.

The five amusing episodes are linked but the separate events provide suitable stopping points for readers just embarking on early chapter books.
Marc Boutavant provides appropriately cheery, retro style illustrations that range from full page to vignette.
All in all an upbeat, engaging read about family, friendship and the benefits of having a winningly positive attitude to life and its possibilities.

Lulu Gets a Cat
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Books
In her latest story Lulu wants a cat and sets about showing her mum that she’s ready to have one by doing some research on their care and putting in some practice on her cat toy. Eventually Mum is persuaded and off they go together to the cat shelter.

There, Lulu doesn’t so much choose a cat, but is chosen by one of those she’s shown.
Cat shelter worker, Jeremy provides some helpful advice; they go home and make preparations; and return next day to collect the new pet. Lulu gives her cat the beautiful name, of Makeda, which means African Queen and after a period of adjustment, it’s not long before Makeda is well and truly settled into her new home.

Lulu never fails to delight: this new story, endorsed by the National Cats Adoption Centre, ticks all the boxes for showing the very young that becoming a pet owner involves considerable responsibility, as well as introducing the basics of adopting a cat.

I’ve signed the charter  

One Happy Tiger/ Colours: A Walk in the Countryside / My Little Cities: London

One Happy Tiger
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger Press
What a delight to have Augustus back and between the sturdy covers of a wonderful board book. Everything about this is splendid from the look and feel of that cover through to Augustus’s sublime smile as he watches the movements of his ten friends on the final spread.
In between, he starts off sitting alone and then we see a sequence of encounters with 2 bugs (beetles I think); 3 birds with bright plumage; 4 ‘floating butterflies’;

5 dragonflies hover above his head. Augustus then bounds off leaving 6 large footprints and moves through a rain shower dancing with 7 ‘plump raindrops’ …

relaxes to watch 8 bees; splashes into the pool to tease 9 fish before clambering out to dry off in the sun and greet his friends all together.
This is a board book, (based Catherine Rayner’s Augustus and His Smile), that looks, apart from its sturdy card pages like a real picture book; and its shape is truly satisfying too. Adults will get as much pleasure as the toddlers they share this one with.

Colours: A walk in the countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this is another delightful countryside walk wherein readers accompany two toddlers on a joyful nature ramble; this time, it’s colour-related. We join the children as they exuberantly run down a slope surrounded by green – look closely and you’ll see a cricket and a butterfly on the plants. They stop to observe a ladybird on a grass stem in a poppyfield; then notice an orange-tip butterfly by a stone wall; a group of ants attracts the attention of the boy while the girl views a black bird through her binoculars. Their walk continues apace till picnic time, when they have a snack before moving on, all the while keeping their eyes open for interesting sightings such as …

A veritable paintbox of twelve colours and an entire rainbow are part and parcel of their rural ramblings. Awe and wonder for tinies: if this doesn’t inspire an adult to take their young infant out into the countryside on an observation walk, which may or may not mirror that of the children in this lovely little book, I’d be very surprised.

My Little Cities London
Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli
Chronicle Books
Board the bus and take a tour of London. Ten of its famous landmarks are featured in this board book although none is named until the final spread whereon there is a ‘cast in order of appearance’ style briefing about each one depicted. The whole thing is beautifully presented, the text being in rhyming couplets; and the font changes on each spread.

Concepts such as new/old, many/few, soft/hard (rain) are introduced in relation to The Tower of London, the Shard, Trafalgar Square (many pigeons), the Natural History Museum (few dinosaur skeletons), and the two final spreads show wonderful illuminations – the London Eye

and Big Ben – against the night sky.
Altogether a class act, with so much to see and so much to talk about: that’s London. Author, Adams, and illustrator, Pizzoli, have, for toddlers, done it proud.

I’ve signed the charter  

When an Elephant Falls in Love / I Love You

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When an Elephant Falls in Love
Davide Cali and Alice Lotti
Chronicle Books
Davide Cali of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School and The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer fame brings his sardonic wit to an exploration of falling in love, elephant style.
In his straightforward text, he offers, one by one, eight symptoms of this state of being. Alice Lotti portrays each of these ‘foolish things’ with equal wit in her stark, mixed media illustrations. Elephant is the perfect purveyor of the condition as his huge bulk serves to emphasise the daftness of each action …

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He hides whenever he sees her.

And, there’s a tiny yellow bird that pops up as an observer of each scene, further adding to the overall impact of the whole crazy scenario …

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Look by the bowl …

Both young readers and adults will find plenty to make them smile in this, whether or not they recognise the symptoms from personal experience or observations of others, for it’s plain to see that when an elephant falls in love …

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his actions are pretty much those of a besotted human.

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I Love You
Clemency Pearce and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
The all important title message is delivered through Clemency Pearce’s warm-hearted, rhyming text and super-cute, patterned illustrations. With its textual pattern that begins, ‘ When you feel so very small, / when no one seems to care at all, / what can make you ten feet tall? // Three little words …
(turn over) … ‘I love you!’ …

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this cries out to the very young to join in with those three words after each verse is read aloud.
But those recipients of love can also help make others feel better …

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Ideal to share with your toddler, this board book is a delight.
Another board book with the same title is

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I Love You
Dawn Sirett
DK
This is the latest addition to DK’s Baby Touch and Feel series.
Colour photographs of animals, toys and humans …

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each with a finger-sized tactile feature are the ingredients of this chunky little book. Just right for the very youngest to explore.

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Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer / The Christmas Fairy

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Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer
Nicola Killen
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
It’s Christmas Eve; Ollie is suddenly awoken by a jingly sound. What could it be? She creeps to the window seeing nothing but a snowy landscape. Determined to discover the source of the sound, she boards her sledge and off she goes down the hill and into the dark wood.

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It’s there she comes upon a collar studded with silver bells caught on a tree branch. Then from the darkness emerges a reindeer, a collarless reindeer.

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With its collar safely back on, the reindeer takes Ollie on a magical ride through the starry skies…

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Saying farewell to a new friend is hard for Ollie but she knows that there’s important work awaiting him; and then there’s Christmas morning to look forward to …
Judiciously placed splashes of red and silver are used sparingly to enhance the dramatic effect of the otherwise black and white scenes of all the activity that fills this quiet, snowy night. A gentle, simple and magical story.

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The Christmas Fairy
Anne Booth and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
When Clara hears that ‘Christmas fairy’ lessons are on the curriculum she’s thrilled; being a ‘proper’ Christmas fairy is exactly what she’s been wishing for. The trouble is this involves standing statue-still on tiptoes and staying absolutely silent: in other words no giggling, absolutely no wriggling and positively no singing. As show day draws nearer, it looks as though this whole Christmas fairy thing is just way too demanding for Clara.

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The big day arrives and Clara is distraught. Suddenly though events take a turn. Santa’s there in front of her and seemingly he has not just one, but three roles that need filling, and he thinks Clara fits the bill perfectly. Can she step in and save the show?

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And what about that Christmas wish of hers …
Cute, seasonal rhyming fun for tinies. A lovely demonstration of the idea that everyone has something to offer, especially those who are slightly divergent; it’s just a matter of finding what that special something is.

Joys of the Countryside

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1 2 3 A Walk in the Countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This is a companion volume to ABC A Walk in the Countryside also published in association with the National Trust. Here the two small friends, plus dog are taking an autumnal walk by the river, over the hedgerow stile, pausing to look at falling leaves and scudding clouds, squirrels busy collecting acorns.

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Then over the stepping stones to the other side of the river where rabbits play; and on into the pine woods. Next it’s time to pause for a tasty snack – thank you apple tree …

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before stopping again for a spot of fish watching, blackberry picking – yum yum –

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and, as the sun sinks the youngsters take delight in the flock of geese overhead 19 in all. But there’s still more to count – 100 stars, as they make their way homewards ready for snuggling up in a cosy bed.
With a delightful visual narrative accompanied by named items to count, this is a super little book to share with tinies either as a prelude to, or after, their own country counting walk. It’s as well it’s sturdily built to stand up to all the frequent re-readings I forsee for this enchanting country foray. Those illustrations would make a cracking number frieze for an early years setting or small child’s bedtoom.

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Hedgehogs, Hares and other British Animals
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow
This ‘Nature Sticker Book’ goes right through the seasons visiting various habitats from the garden, the forest – underground and above in the spring;

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to the river and open countryside at night. We’re then taken closer up into tall grassland that provides a home for harvest mice, rabbits, grouse and hares, and many wild flowers too can be found. The marine life and the seashore spreads focus mainly on large mammals – whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals although one of the activity spots on this spread invites readers to choose a position for the lighthouse (one is included among the 2 pages of stickers in the “On the beach’ section).
Seasonal changes are evident in the ‘Busy in the autumn’ woodland spread that shows ripened fruits and animals foraging for food to store for winter; and there’s a snowy woodland scene too …

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The final focus is on the reintroduction of some animal species such as beavers, and a playful mention of the possibility of wolves roaming once more. The last spread is a checklist of 28 different species that can be filled in over time.
Nikki Dyson, who illustrated Zippo the Super Hippo, provides 11 gorgeous natural scenes into which she places a plethora of wild animals that, with a touch of playfulness, she imbues with real character. One can imagine children, once they’ve added the appropriate stickers and completed entire scenes, creating their own stories relating to these creatures.

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They might even want to include some of the factual information gleaned from the scientific material provided for each spread.
‘This book is all about mammals …’ says the introduction but it’s about much more: the flora are equally wonderful, as are the birds, insects and other small animals that have found their way into Nikki’s natural locations.

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Clothes and Countryside ABCs

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D is for Dress-Up
Maria Carluccio
Chronicle Books
Wonderfully playful: every page in this delightful alphabet book is a starting point for discussion or storying. What is being made by the cook wearing that apron on the A page?

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Who are the children sporting the bow and bow tie illustrated for B? Where are they going?
On what occasion will the ensemble be worn?

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Indeed Maria Carluccio’s digitally rendered scenes celebrate the world of clothing and fabrics for a whole variety of occasions from costumes to be worn for Hallowe’en to glasses and underwear for every day use.
There are also activity-related items such as leotards and yoga pants …

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and I like the way fabric-related words such as quilted, and polka dots & pinstripes

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are included in addition to articles of clothing.
An unusual choice of theme for an alphabet book but it’s one that works, although one might want to quibble about ‘neckties’ for instance (I guess this is in use in the USA) and none of the clothes featured on the overalls page equates to the UK definition of the word. All in all though, this is certainly worth adding to any early years book collection; and it could be a good starting point for children to collaborate on their own ‘Dress-Up” alphabet.

For a slightly younger audience is:

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ABC A Walk in the Countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
In this charming alphabet book, published in conjunction with the National Trust, we accompany two small children on a gentle stroll in the country. There are frequent pauses to observe …

 

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to play,

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and sometimes to be observed too.

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Every spread has plenty to engage and to discuss with youngsters around the same age as the two walkers; and the sturdy board book format should stand up to the enthusiastic handling it’s likely to receive.

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Warthog / Ten Little Monsters

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Warthog
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This rhyming tale of young warthog’s wanderings incorporates counting to ten as our forgetful little chap savours a scoop of honey – one (that’s breakfast taken care of) encountering two angry bees in so doing; his wanders then take him to a pool wherein he splashes, finds three pebbles

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which are actually …

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Off goes warthog swishing through the long grass wherein he finds five flowers behind which flutter six butterflies. By now our brave little wanderer is far from home and his mum – a little hungry perhaps? But those seven berries he spies have all been claimed by hungry birds – can you see which of the eight is going without a meal?

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Enjoying the birds’ song, warthog keeps on wandering quite oblivious to the fact it’s now sundown; he’s more interested in the nine monkeys and ten footprints which of course our curious fellow cannot resist following.
No they don’t lead him back home – not quite, although it’s not long before there IS one little warthog hot -footing it right back where he came from and he arrives …

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If you’re wondering why he returned so suddenly and so hastily, then turn back to the first spread and look carefully. And then get hold of this wonderfully interactive, playful counting book and see the rest of the action. Observant youngsters will most likely notice the wily watcher on some of the other spreads as you enjoy the story together.

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Ten Little Monsters
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
We’ve had pirates, princesses and dinosaurs; now it’s the turn of monsters to invade the pages of Brownlow and Rickerty’s latest counting extravaganza.
It’s night time but that’s the time for little monsters to wake up and go about their spooking of a castle and its environs. (Not sure why they’ve chosen now to publish a book wherein the characters go trick or treating but never mind): off go the ten on their spooking way until that werewolf lets out his howl …

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and thus begins the one by one decrease in their numbers as those would-be scarifiers encounter a headless knight, a ravenous raven, a large arachnid …

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a raucous, zapping robot, a zombie gang …

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some skeletons (hilarious demolition details on this spread), cackling witches, a grotesque green ghost and then we’re down to just one terrified monster and he alone must summon up all his courage to open the door and …
Well, that would be telling.
So many counting opportunities, so many story telling opportunities, so many visual jokes but most important of all – so much romping, stomping fun.

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Tickles, Troubles, Rewards and Rides

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Silly Dizzy Dinosaur!
Jack Tickle
Little Tiger Press pbk
Aptly named, Dizzy is a fun-loving young dinosaur that loves tickles – so long as they aren’t too tickly. Find out what happens when he receives an enormous tickling that is all a bit TOO much in this action-packed romp that is chock full of opportunities for shouting, shaking, hiccupping, and of course, tickling. The up-close scenes zoom readers right in to the main action

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but at the same time there are small part actors in the form of minibeasts and fish to add to the fun and frenzy.

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Go To Sleep, Monty!
Kim Geyer
Andersen Press
Max has looked after his toy dog, Snuffly Poo since he was a baby but now he’s a ‘big boy’ his parents have agreed to him having a real puppy. Little does he realize what he’s taking on though when he chooses his pup; Monty needs a fair bit of training to say the very least.

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But when bedtime comes, things prove even more tricky: despite Max’s very best efforts, Monty just will not go to sleep.

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Indeed, he pees all over the kitchen floor. Then Max has a brainwave; he offers Monty Snuggly Poo as a sleep mate. Bad move, Max.
Just what will it take for the boy and his lively pup to get a night’s sleep?
Kim Geyer has created some endearing characters – human and otherwise for her debut picture book, presenting the action very much from Max and Monty’s perspective using a subdued palette for the larger than life scenes. It’s a story that will go down well with under fives at bedtime or any time, particularly those who have a lively pup to look after.

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Babies Don’t Walk They Ride!
Kathy Henderson and Lauren Tobia
Brubaker, Ford & Friends (Templar)
Delectable infants grace the pages of this lovely book as they are pushed, shoulder ride, glide, stroll (in their buggies of course), roll in trolleys (and other things), go bumping in buses,

 

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charge charioteer-like and even fly sometimes;

 

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all courtesy of their parents, carers, siblings and very likely, grandparents and other willing movers and shakers, all of whom huggle and cuddle, and sing to their charges. And those babes if only they could, would join in the chorus of “Babies don’t walk they ride!
What a joyful time is had by all – readers, listeners and of course, those infants and those who care for them in this gorgeously illustrated, rhyming parade of perambulations.

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A great partnership and a ‘read over-and over’-production for the very young and all their adult minders. One (or more) to give and one to keep, I’d say.

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The Fairiest Fairy
Anne Booth and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
When young, Betty starts Fairy School her teacher despairs of her. Although she does her very best Betty just cannot manage to make dewdrops sparkle in the sun, nor wake the flowers up in the morning

 

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or even paint rainbows like the other pupils. She does have a very kind heart though as we see when she attends to a rabbit’s foot, helps a baby bird learn to fly and rescues a butterfly tangled up in a flower.

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When it’s time for the annual Fairy Ball, a tearful Betty is convinced she won’t be chosen by the Fairy King and Queen. How could such a messy, muddle-making fairy, be the Fairiest Fairy in all the land?
Endearing infant fairies cavort and sometimes, stumble across the rainbow hued pages of this enchanting rhyming take on the joys and tribulations of starting nursery or school for the first time which is at the same time, a demonstration of the importance of showing kindness and consideration to all.

Other recent or reissued titles on first experiences at nursery/school are:

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Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes
Eric Litwin and James Dean
Harper Collins pbk
Groovy Pete dons his funky new school shoes and heads off to school. There he discovers the joys of the library, painting, eating his packed lunch and the slide in the playground. He also tries his paws at writing and basic maths and decides school rocks.
Upbeat and offbeat fun; and a song to sing-along with.
and
Going to Nursery
Catherine and Lawrence Anholt
Orchard Books pbk
A reissue of the beautifully reassuring story of Anna’s first forays into nursery wherein she meets the lovely teacher, Mrs Sams and the rest of her exuberant charges and samples the delights of the exciting range of activities on offer.

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Seeds of Friendship, Flowers of Love

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The Seeds of Friendship
Michael Foreman
Walker Books
Adam, new to high-rise city life, certainly does sow the seeds of friendship in more ways than one in this uplifting modern fable. Adam however, has come from a distant part of the world and his parents helped him keep his memories alive by sharing stories that he responded to by making pictures of the fauna and flora of his old home country.
Outside meanwhile, everything looks grey and cold and his shyness prevents him from leaving his tower block and making approaches to the children he sometimes sees below. But then one morning his view outside is completely blocked by frosty patterns on his window. He does what most children find irresistible– draws pictures on the windows, not only his own but every one available; pictures of animals that live in the frozen forest ‘canvas’ nature has already created for him.

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That night snow falls and next morning Adam ventures out into a wonderful world of white where other children are making a snowman. Brrr!

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But Adam builds something completely different and surprising to the others, who are soon drawn into a co-creative enterprise on a very large scale.

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A few days later when Adam starts his new school, he discovers some of his new-found friends and he finds something else equally important and exciting – a garden. Not a large one, but one from which his teacher gives Adam some seeds to take home: seeds that grow and multiply so that after a few months, Adam is able to invite his friends home where they all help him create a glorious roof garden. And we all know what seeds have a tendency to do – SPREAD – which is just what happens here. Thanks to teamwork, Adam and his friends transform the whole locality into a gloriously glowing city of gardens

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whose colours will be different every season –that and those seeds of hope and friendship which can go on for ever …
Just perfect – what more needs to be said.

For a younger audience is:

 

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Lulu Loves Flowers
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Books
The adorable Lulu is back with a book-inspired activity: this time she wants to be like Mary Mary in her favourite poem from the garden poems anthology.

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So, armed with library books on gardening, and help from her Mummy with the buying and planting of seeds, her garden is under way. Though of course those flowers won’t grow up overnight, so in the meantime Lulu decides to make her own flower book, string some shells and beads and make a little Mary Mary character of her own. Then one warm, sunny day, joy of joys, her flowers have opened to greet the sun.

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Time to hang up those shiny bells, Lulu, before your friends come round to see that special garden and to share some of the produce.
Absolutely charming – both words and pictures are full of warmth; and as always Lulu is such a good advocate for books and libraries. Would that every young child had parents like her ready to encourage and support all those activities that are so important for young children – reading, writing, growing things and developing their creativity.

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