This is a Dog

This is a Dog
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

There’s no getting away from it, Ross Collins’ intended My First Animal Book’ has been infiltrated, indeed taken over, by a mischievous canine that has no intention of doing anything but ensuring he’s the only animal that matters herein. He’s even had the audacity to substitute his name for Ross’s on the title page.

Make no bones about it, his actions are anything but well received by the other animals – note their expressions. And having annoyed the monkey, astonished the rabbit and alarmed the squirrel, he’s somehow managed to get his paws on a black crayon to edit (actually mess around with) the text.

Children will absolutely love what he does beside the giraffe and giggle at his attempts at emulating a pachyderm in front of the elephant.

He almost gets his cum uppance with bear but then comes gorilla where he definitely over steps the mark by way too much and they all give chase.

It’s fortunate that his trusty crayon is still close at paw as it enables him to have the last laugh, not to mention the final word (or two).

I love everything about this cracker of a book. It’s so clever, such a ingenious mix of seeming simplicity and sophistication, and likely to appeal to a wide readership from beginner readers to those who will notice and delight in Ross’s dedication to his own dog Hugo ‘Who taught me the meaning of irony by destroying some of the artwork from this book.’

Brilliant!

I Am A Tiger / The Happy Lion

I Am A Tiger
Karl Newson and Ross Collins
Macmillan Children’s Books

Ignorance? Bravado? Or playfulness? What is driving Karl’s Mouse protagonist to insist that he’s a tiger. Fox, racoon, snake and parrot in turn, challenge the small creature to prove himself but his lack of size, stripes and tree climbing skills do nothing to convince the others of his claim and that growl is – let’s say somewhat feeble.

Suddenly along comes another animal proclaiming …

The ‘not-tiger’ then goes on to try and persuade the stripy character that HE is in fact a mouse with some deft moves.

These he follows with some further ridiculousness

before departing in search of lunch.

This sees our little grey friend heading towards a watery place wherein he spies his reflection and there he learns the error of his claims …

With it’s wonderful surprise finale, this is a grrralectable piece of comic theatre picture book style delivered through Karl’s droll mouse narrative and Ross Collins’ brilliantly expressive scenes.

Hilarious, and I look forward to the next of the promised Karl/Ross creations; they’ve certainly set the bar pretty high with this one. Young listeners will absolutely love it and it’s a gift for those who enjoy throwing themselves into story sharing.

The Happy Lion
Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin
Scallywag Press

This is a new edition of a classic story originally published in the 1950s and is set in a French town.

In that town is a zoo, the home of the Happy Lion. He leads a contented life there with daily visits from friends young and not so young, as well as being entertained by the town’s band on Sundays during the summer.

One day, the keeper forgets to close the door and the lion decides to go out and visit all those kind people who were his regular visitors.

Their reactions however are not at all what the Happy Lion expects; he’s barely acknowledged by the animals and the humans are terrified.

Bemused he stops, meditates, concludes, “this must be the way people behave when they are not in the zoo” and continues on his way hoping to find a friend.

He does so, after some drama involving a fire engine, firefighters and their very long hose; and all ends happily with the Happy Lion and his young friend walking back to the zoo together …

With alternate black and white, and three-colour, textured spreads, Duvoisin’s illustrations – wonderful, sketchy, smudgy scenes – still hold their magical charm – for this reviewer certainly – providing the perfect complement to Fatio’s tale.

Secret Agent Elephant

Secret Agent Elephant
Eoin McLaughlin and Ross Collins
Orchard Books

Ever thought about becoming a secret agent? That’s what the large pachyderm in this story has set his sights on; but can he get through the required training course? There’s a pretty rigorous selection process.

The first rule is secrecy about the role: that’s something Elephant definitely needs to do some work on. Hiding is a vital skill but if that’s not possible, perhaps a disguise might do instead …

Our elephant candidate surely does look pretty dapper in that tuxedo: seemingly the tailor can after all, perform the odd miracle.

So, it’s ‘Agent 00-Elephant’ welcome to the Secret Service and now on to your very first mission in double quick time before the dastardly feline Vincent Le Morte, notorious international supervillain presses that big red button of his and wipes out the entire world.

No pressure then Agent Elephant.

It’s time to take that enormous leap.

Hurrah! Vincent’s super-secret hideout located.

All that’s left to do now is discover the whereabouts of Vincent himself without letting your purpose be discovered.

Agent Elephant gets a sighting so he begins tracking his prey who just happens to be heading for that red button.

There’s the occasional hazard en route – sharks for instance as well as the odd distraction of the edible kind.

Oh my goodness, it seems as though someone is expecting a visitor but hang on a minute. Could it be that the latest recruit to the spy fraternity might just be about to save the world …

A pizza-fuelled piece of comedy theatre of the tastiest kind is this picture book collaboration between Eoin McLaughlin and Ross Collins.

Every spread is sure to induce giggles and the way the text works in tandem with the visuals is masterful.

Adults will have great fun sharing this with young audiences; I certainly did.

What Does an Anteater Eat?

What Does an Anteater Eat?
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

Ross Collins will certainly have audiences spluttering with delight at the finale of what is essentially an extended joke of a book. That’s getting ahead of things though, so let’s go back to the beginning.

Surely any self-respecting anteater, even one that wakes up hungry, should not need to go around asking the various creatures he encounters one morning what he ought to be dining upon but that’s exactly what happens here.

The responses he gets range from an indolent “I’m very busy. Don’t bother me.” through some recommendations …

and helpful advice about thorough chewing (that’s from snake)to a lip-licking contemplation of the anteater’s own potential as a meal

until Anteater arrives at a large nest. Now surely the penny will drop so to speak at the sight of this …

It does, but perhaps not in quite the way we might have been anticipating.

This tongue-in-cheek tale is delivered with panache: the expressions on the faces of the animals – anteater’s and all the others’ are wonderfully droll as is the dialogue throughout.

Be sure to watch out for the tiny insects crawling through almost every spread clearly intent on a spot of nest building.

This Zoo is Not for You

This Zoo is Not for You
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

A misunderstanding is at the heart of Ross Collins’ latest picture book.
It stars a bus-driving platypus who arrives at the zoo on a day when interviews for new admissions are in progress.
He’s duly made to put up with a series of scrutinies by some very self-important residents.
First off is panda, Chi Chi an enormous creature propped up by a large heap of self-promotional items, who disdainfully utters, ‘To get me here / was quite a coup. But you don’t even / eat bamboo. I think this zoo / is not for you.

All the other animals are in agreement. The flamingos liken him to a ‘worn-out shoe’; the monkeys bombard him with poo;

his lack of colour displeases the chameleons and elephant instantly fails him on account of his diminutive stature.
Off goes platypus; the interviewers confer and eventually a monkey actually bothers to open and read platypus’s dropped communication.

Is it too late to make amends?
This playful tale, told in jaunty rhyming couplets accompanied by splendidly eloquent illustrations is a delight to read aloud and destined to become a storytime favourite. With its inherent themes of difference, understanding and acceptance, there is so much food for thought and discussion.

A Bear on a Chair, A Tearful Teddybear

DSCN4488 (800x600)

There’s a Bear On My Chair
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow
There’s a bear on my chair,” declares the grumpy-looking mouse. Well, wouldn’t you be annoyed if you found an enormous white ursine character had plonked itself on your favourite piece of furniture and was refusing to budge despite your best efforts.

DSCN4489 (800x600)

Especially when said bear then proceeds to peruse the paper, attend to his coiffeur and cannot even to be tempted to shift with a juicy pear.
This is just not on – well I suppose it is, if you’re the bear – but our tiny friend is determined to reclaim his seat so scaring is his next move. But …

DSCN4491 (800x600)

seemingly this bear is not for moving. Hold on a minute, do I detect a slight shift …

DSCN4492 (800x600)

so what is all that about?
Completely at a loss, the despairing narrator mouse finally decides to quit the scene but whither do his little paws take him? Well, that would be telling wouldn’t it?
A resounding cheer – and another – and another for Ross Collins and his glorious two hander, or should that be monologue perhaps? Whichever, it’s superb.
The comic timing is spot on and what a gift to the adult reader aloud. This one has had terrific fun sharing it with groups of listeners wherever she can get a chair. And those illustrations speak volumes – I’d love to show you every single one but you’ll just have to get your paws on a copy of the book for that.

DSCN4448 (800x600)

Cheer Up Your Teddy Bear, Emily Brown!
Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
In this, the fourth title to feature Emily Brown and her rabbit Stanley, the two are indoors on a wet day playing at camping in the Australian Outback when they hear a PLIP! PLOP! seemingly coming from the toy box. Therein they find a somewhat soggy, very tearful little teddy singing plaintively about her loneliness.

DSCN4449 (800x600)

Emily invites the troubled ted to accompany them on their camping adventure in the hope of cheering her up and off the three go. But does this have the desired mood lifting effect? Oh dear no, so Emily undaunted (as yet) suggests a trip to the Yellowstone Park

DSCN4450 (800x600)

but although Emily Brown and Stanley have a great time bear spotting the grizzlies, black bears and others (despite the lack of other teddies), this too fails to lift the mood of Tearful Teddy.
What about the third attempt? Their south of France, Van Gogh efforts must surely do the trick …

DSCN4451 (800x600)

Goodness me NO! What a misery guts their ursine companion is. Eventually that large black cloud engulfs not only Tearful Teddy, but Emily Brown and Stanley too.
Time for some drastic action, thinks Emily B. Out comes her red brolly with a SWOOOOOOOOOOOSH!! And, there before their eyes up pop …

DSCN4452 (800x600)

a dozen little teddies needing a temporary shelter from their picnic. They explain their initial reluctance to include Tearful Ted in their fun and she tries explaining her lack of smile. Emily Brown of course, in her unflappable way, is ready to help with a ‘rediscover your smile plan’ and all ends smilingly – despite another shower.
Another super read aloud and a real testament to young children’s imagination. It’s great for starting an exploration of feelings indicating that sometimes it’s OK to feel sad, particularly when there are friends to help you cheer up.
My audiences have loved joining in with Tearful Ted’s increasingly long song; some clapped at the umbrella-opening incident and immediately demanded a re-read at the end. Two 5 year olds even left the room singing Tearful Ted’s song.

DSCN4460 (800x600)

A group of 4s to 9s created a teddybears’ picnic for Tearful Ted

 

Use your local bookshop  localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

 

Celebrating Dads

DSCN2480

My Amazing Dad
Ross Collins
Simon and Schuster pbk
Little crocodile, Snip, loves his dad but has absolutely no idea how he spends his time. In contrast all his friends’ dads seem to do amazing things:Monkey Max’s dad ‘Whooshes’, zebra Stripe’s dad is great at hiding, Trunkle’s dad can spray water higher than the trees, Bongo the gorilla has a dad who can beat his chest louder than anyone and Wallow’s dad can stay under water for ages. Seemingly, all the dads are cooler than his, thinks Snip and off he goes back to his Mum to find out just what his Dad does all day.
Mum takes her offspring and shows him that in fact, his Dad, as teacher of all the others, is truly amazing.

DSCN2479

This amusing, warm-hearted tale of fathers and friendship is just the thing for sharing with that special dad on Father’s Day, or any time.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2495

Just the Job for Dad
Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard
Scholastc pbk
Emma and her brother, Sam explore a variety of exciting sounding jobs for their father whose own job sounds to them, deadly boring. But on closer examination they  all seem to have requirements that would interfere with their Dad’s normal routines. Dragon minding for instance would mean starting at t sunrise, so what about their breakfast?

DSCN2496

A pirate captain’s look out has to report for duty at 5pm (their swimming time) and other occupations would involve performing at dinner time, setting out at bath time, or even being away a whole week. Maybe what Dad already has – the job of being a being a great Dad – is, as he says, himself, “… just the job for me!” But what about Mum?

DSCN2498

Funny pictures, a funny story with the kind of repetition children love joining in with and a caring Dad who reads stories to his offspring: what more can anyone ask? Make sure you explore every single part of this one.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2525

My Dad and Me
Tania Cox and Lorette Broekstra
Allen & Unwin (Murdoch Books)
Small children love to spend time with their dads. Here we have a small celebration of some of the things they love to do with that very special person: things like dancing and singing, chatting on the phone, cooking,

DSCN2524

sharing a surprise; but best of all is that “I-LOVE-YOU-HUG”.
Told through a series of happy scenes and a rhyming text, this simple little book might fit the bill for a celebration of one particular dad on Father’s day.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2523

Daddy is My Hero
Dawn Richards and Jane Massey
Doubleday
For the very youngest to share, this is an abridged board book edition of a title previously reviewed on this site in the section April Paperback Pick
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookshop:

http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch