Nook

Nook
Sally Anne Garland
Sunbird Books

This is a gentle, sweet tale that shows the empowering quality of the kindness of others.

Nook is a small, shy rabbit; she speaks little and prefers to stay in quiet spots with somewhere against which to press her back so she feels safe.

Her most favourite place of all is the deep hollow in an old elm tree, the ideal place from which to watch the other animals play. Try as they might to entice her out to join them, Nook prefers to keep her body feeling safe in her nook, but in spirit she’d be a participant in their games.

‘Nook’s place’ is what the hollow becomes known as, a place where other creatures know not to sit. Or rather, not quite all of them, for one day filling the hollow she finds …

The surly creature claims the space as his own, leaving Nook with welling tears and panic stricken.

Not for long however for her fear gives ways to surprise when the other animals stand behind her and speak out in her support. As they edge forward, the little rabbit feels protected and encouraged so that at last she feels confident enough to let them lead her away and play …

Do you think she continued so to do? You bet.

As it is with little animals so it is with young humans; some are outgoing and happy to be one of the crowd from the start, others – the introverts – need empathetic understanding and encouragement so they don’t stay forever on the sidelines.

Sally Anne Garland uses bold brush and coloured pencil strokes to imbue her animal characters with kindliness and humanity while also including in her outdoor scenes, lovely details from the natural world – a ladybird, seed heads, small flowers, for instance.

Definitely a book to share with foundation stage children, and individuals at home.

Stuck Inside

Stuck Inside
Sally Anne Garland
Sunbird Books

I suspect we can all relate to the title of this story, though perhaps not for the reasons that Tilly and her dog Toby are faced with. The latter has an injured paw so his usual walks have temporarily stopped; Tilly is staying in on account of the rain storm and both girl and dog are feeling hemmed in.

Cooped up together with no adults around, what can they do? Then Toby brings something that belongs outdoors and puts it at Tilly’s feet. This gives her an idea and together they start to explore their large home in search of outdoor items.

Somewhat apprehensively they look behind ‘doors that had always seemed closed’,

inspect beneath beds, open drawers and scour shelves uncovering ‘dusty things long forgotten.’ There they find hitherto unnoticed and interesting things – toys, old walking sticks, broken brollies, roller skates and other items with wheels, a deflated paddling pool even.

Having spent some time tweaking and twiddling these long lost treasures, remembering places visited and creating imaginative adventures, they proudly contemplate their astonishing machine …


Sally Anne Garland’s carefully chosen words in combination with her richly patterned and textured illustrations with their rural setting, effectively demonstrate that boredom can be the best possible stimulus for children’s creativity.

The Little Pirate Queen

The Little Pirate Queen
Sally Anne Garland
New Frontier Publishing

Meet young Lucy who makes a weekly voyage on her rickety raft in search of Far Away Land, a place where nobody before has ever set foot.

Over the weeks her raft has become increasingly dilapidated, despite her efforts at repairing the damage; but nonetheless, Lucy’s sailing skills have improved. Even so her craft is no match for the speed of the other children’s boats and that makes her a little downcast. To lift her spirits, she imagines herself a brave ‘Pirate Queen’ which helps, but only sometimes.

One morning a strong wind blows up and an enormous wave leaves Lucy lost and alone on stormy waters.

Alone that is until she spies four other children clutching pieces of wood and rope, desperately trying to keep afloat. Lucy succeeds in hauling them aboard her frail raft

and proceeds to give them lessons in rowing and sail repairs. Come nightfall they’re all able to enjoy Lucy’s tales and songs of lost treasure and pirates.

But will they ever reach that Far Away Island? …

An enjoyable tale of a resilient adventurer, with themes of resourcefulness, empowerment, friendship and more. Young would-be voyagers around the age of Lucy especially, will love this, particularly those wonderful dramatic seascapes.

Animals and a Vegetable

 

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Dolci and her mum enjoy the story together

Fiddlesticks!
Sean Taylor and Sally Anne Garland
Simon and Schuster pbk
Mouse’s house is perfect – well almost. There’s just a slight slope to one of the windows. Easily fixed, thinks Mouse but not so; he can’t reach up far enough. “FIDDLESTICKS!” Surely big, strong Bear can help though – oops!

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One broken window… “FIDDLESTICKS and RATS!” But Squirrel is an ace climber and woodworker … Oh no! …With flood water to contend with, filthy footprints all over the kitchen wall (courtesy of Otter), a gaping hole in the roof – Moose’s offering, Mouse’s house is pretty near wrecked.

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Time to bale out; off goes a distraught Mouse.
Meanwhile as the day progresses those destroyers have become creators and by sundown, when our little friend decides to return to his wreck of a home, he’s in for a big surprise.

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Those pals of yours have done an amazing job, just keep your paws off that door, little Mouse,
The author says he was inspired to write this amusing story when listening to Flanders and Swann’s The Gas Man Cometh. The slightly understated telling certainly works well and the built-in repetition and cumulative nature of Mouse’s expletives delight young listeners. So too do Sally Anne Garland’s cute illustrations executed in muted shades of blues, greens, browns, pinks and greys; and the whole thing is printed on high quality paper – an added bonus.
Buy from Amazon

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A Day with the Animal Mechanics
Sharon Rentta
Alison Green Books pbk
Young Dylan Basset’s big day has arrived. He’s off to help his Dad at the garage he owns. When he arrives he sees the mechanics already hard at work; there’s so much to learn,

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things like how to use the car wash. So why is it that the hot afternoon is so quiet – not a single customer. Then… time to get moving Animal mechanics; grab the spare tyres, spanners, a snack and off you go. What a jam they discover on the coast road, all because a huge lorry up front has shed its load of boxes. It’s not only the cars that are overheating the mechanics find, so it’s fortunate that young Dylan decides to investigate the contents of the spilt cargo …

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Guess who gets the vote for best mechanic that day. Now you’ve all earned a refreshing seaside dip too…
Rich in detail, with plenty to amuse, explore and absorb, this latest episode with the Animal work force is sure to please young audiences and those who share the book with them.
Buy from Amazon

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Cheese Belongs To You
Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books pbk
Starting once again with a simple scenario, the creator of the brilliant There are Cats in this Book and There are No Cats in this Book has co-created a hilarious, totally brilliant, crazy story concerning the ownership of cheese, or rather, one particular, holey chunk of the stuff. Rat Law has it that, if any rat has the cheese, that rat is the owner of same –

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unless that is, a bigger, quicker, stronger, scarier, hairier or even a dirty rat (especially a gang boss), wants it. Which rodent eventually gets to partake of that cheese though?

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All manner of rats, and potentially extremely dodgy situations have been entertained with verve and vigour in reds and greys (the cheese though is a glowing yellowy orange) and through co-creator Alexis Deacon’s wonderfully clever, cumulative text.
There is so much to explore and discuss herein that I guarantee sharing it with a class of 4s to 7s will keep everyone engaged for ages; begin with the cover and cheesy endpapers and just FOLLOW THAT CHEESE! With its cleverly inbuilt repetition, this book is perfect for learner readers too.
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Catch that Crocodile!
Anushka Ravishankar and Pulak Biswas
Tara Books pbk
Herein, it takes a young fish-seller, Meena to solve the problem of how to deal with the jaw-snapping reptile that Falguni Fruit-seller discovers in a ditch. And, what’s more she does so in an entirely non-violent manner

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(luring it back to the river with a trail of her wares). That of course is after the likes of Probin Policeman, Doctor Dutta and wrestler Bhayanak Singh have all attempted to do their worst to the croc and definitely come off second best.

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With its clever, eye-catching typography, folk-style illustrations that look almost like woodcuts and catchy rhyme, this is good fun to read aloud with small groups of children who will need to be able to look closely at the pictures to get the most from the story.
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Supertato
Sue Hendra
Simon and Schuster pbk
Whoever heard of a superhero spud? I certainly hadn’t prior to seeing Sue Hendra’s latest offering. Said superspud is hot on the trail of one dastardly pea that has got loose from the freezer and caused all kinds of suffering among the inhabitants of the vegetable section of the supermarket.

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Supertato’s search sends him creeping through the cakes, the cheese and the cans but just as he’s about to grab his prey, he finds himself plunging into the icy depths of the freezer above which the pea lurks wielding a spud masher.

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Is our superhero destined to become mere mash? Not quite but it’s a pretty close call.
Hmm! What’s that green spherical object in the jelly?
Totally crazy but there’s something rather appealing about a spud with superpowers careering around a supermarket at night.
The bright, almost brash colours of the produce and their surroundings make for suitably eye-catching scenes and the playful language adds spice to this tongue-in-cheek drama.
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