Tag Archives: Sally Sutton

When We Go Camping/ Skyfishing

Who is the narrator of this lively celebration of family camping? Could it be one of the children? A parent? Or perhaps, the eponymous dog that gets into each and every scene? I doubt it’s one of the grandparents; all they seem to do is sit around or participate in some form of spectator sport, with the odd pause for a spot of insect swatting on occasion.
Meanwhile, other family members make friends, play, cook, fish, swim, shiver thereafter: beg your pardon Gramps: there you are boiling up the billy can for a warm-up drink for the chilly swimmers.

Naturally taking a pee involves a bit of inconvenience and perhaps it might be advisable to take a clothes peg along.

Perhaps the highlight of the day is a spot of ‘Hummetty strummetty squeak-io’ singing around the fire before finally repairing to the tent for some dream-filled slumbers.
Sally Sutton’s rhythmic, rhyming narrative is irresistible, especially so those playful refrains that accompany every scenario so beautifully portrayed in Cat Chapman’s watercolours: there’s a ‘Smacketty tappetty bopp-io‘; a ‘Zippetty zappetty flopp-io’ and a ‘Snuffletty wuffletty roar-io’ to name a few: I’ll leave readers to guess what actions they orchestrate.
My memories of camping are of endeavouring to bash pegs into sloping, rock-hard ground, lumpy porridge and noisy sleep-intruding voices in the night. This book in contrast makes the whole experience – well maybe not the loo visits or the odd trip-up – a pleasure, full of simple, fun-filled delight.

Gideon Sterer and Poly Bernatene
Abrams Books for Young Readers
The young girl narrator’s grandfather loves to fish; so when he moves from his rural idyll to live in the big city with his family, he greatly misses his passion. The child is determined to find a way to engage him, but through autumn and winter, nothing catches his interest.
Come spring, the girl has an inspiration: she initiates a game of ‘let’s pretend’ fishing over the balcony edge and …

The possibilities escalate until they cast their lines deep into the rumbling tumbling ‘ocean’ below: an ocean full of wonderful adventures to last for months and months …

As the narrative unfolds, Bernatene’s vibrant, whimsical paintings show the chaotic city transformed into an ocean teeming with amazing sea creatures.
A warm-hearted story of the special relationship between the young and old, and the power of the imagination.

I’ve signed the charter  

Ralfy Rabbit & Construction: Libraries for All

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WANTED! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar
Emily MacKenzie
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Meet bibliophile Ralfy rabbit, maker of book lists– those he’s read (with carrot ratings ascribed), those he wants to read and those to recommend to friends and family. Ralfy would go to any lengths to get his paws on a good book. He’d even take them from people’s homes

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and large gaps began to appear on the shelves of one small boy Arthur. Arthur too was a book lover and when he discovers the absence of his favourite monster book he decides something has to be done to apprehend the thief. Time to put in a call to the local constabulary he decides, having been laughed at by his mum and chastised by his teacher. Even the police don’t take him seriously though, not until Ralfy tries stealing a book from PC Puddle that is.
Ralfy finds himself in a line-up but it’s pretty difficult to tell one bunny from another when they’re all wearing book lovers T-shirts; Arthur is certainly bemused. But then PC Puddle starts up a conveyor belt …

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That’s not quite the end of the tale though: Arthur knows just the place for someone with an insatiable appetite for books, a place where he must make sure to take the books back for others to enjoy.
This engaging book is an unashamed plug for libraries and an amusing read to boot. I love the alliterative list of Ralfy’s book-pilfering crimes and the book lists Ralfy himself makes (these will be appreciated by adults but most will go over the heads of young children; they will be amused by the carrot ratings).
The illustrations are great too – packed with humorous touches and of course, there are plenty of books in evidence. The conveyor belt scene is terrific, as is one of Arthur’s bookshelves complete with snails and slugs

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and I love the night spotlight of Ralfy returning home with his swag bag almost bursting at the seams with his latest haul.
If you share this with a class of KS1 children, make sure they see the poster on the book’s back cover. They could have fun making their own WANTED posters for Ralfy, or perhaps a poster promoting their local library (if they are lucky enough to have one still).

Building a new library, now that really is something to celebrate and it’s exactly what we see happening in

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Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock
Walker Books
Big machines move onto the site digging, filling, concreting, hoisting wood – Thonk! CLONK CLAP! Then sawing, measuring, hammering as the stairs, floors and walls are erected. Next come the roof, doors and windows with a Heave-ho! followed by pipes and power wires and finally a couple of coats of paint. At last it’s time to bring in the furniture and most important of all come the books – lots and lots of lovely books all waiting to be borrowed. Ready … STEADY… READ! Hip! Hip! Hooray!
Sally Sutton’s energetically rhythmic text simply throbs along in patterned form – action and then onomatopoeic words: ‘Fill the holes. Fill the holes. … Spread it fast before it sets. Sloosh! SLOSH! SLOP!’

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and ‘Build the frame. Build the frame. … Bing! BANG! BONG!


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(Great for audience participation this.)
It’s good to see both male and female workers on Lovelock’s construction site with some of the latter clearly directing the operation in places.

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His changing perspectives allow the audience a variety of views from beneath the action to looking down upon it, at some distance or right in close.

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The final page provides brief explanations of the machines usage and shows the safety gear of a site worker. What more can little builders as well as readers ask?

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Don’t forget February 14th:ibgdposterlarge



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Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock
Walker Books pbk
This wonderfully noisy book has energy and motion in abundance. We follow a gang of workers as they don their protective gear and set to work with their monstrous machines tearing down a derelict building so a playground can be erected in its place.
Writing largely in the imperative, Sally Sutton has created a glorious, must-join-in-with, onomatopoeic rhyming text that characterises the various machines and their roles to perfection:

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The excavator’s huge jaws work in dinosaur fashion to bite and tear and slash.
Then with its basket attached it must …

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Ram the walls. Ram the walls.
Bash and smash and slam.
First they wobble, then they fall.
Thud! CREAK!

Next comes the process of hosing and damping the dust and dirt done by the workers with hoses (I’ve never thought about this before); another spread shows stone crushing and grinding to make new concrete from the old; there is wood shredding

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and chipping to create mulch from the sawdust and metal sorting. Each process has an emphasis on reusing/recycling materials (a great message to give children).
Once all the rubble has been cleared and the play equipment put in place, we are issued an invitation on the final double spread to join the fun and ‘Run and climb and play.

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Lovelock’s emphasis throughout is also on the monstrous machines, which he presents in acrylics, pencils and ink. The latter he uses to highlight details such as the rivets and other elements that contribute to the motion, and to make the various machines stand out from their spatter-wash and stipple backgrounds.
There’s a final Machine Facts page giving brief information about each of the performers and their add-ons; and the end papers are appropriately rubbly.
This book is the perfect thing for an active story session with a group of preschoolers. After an initial reading children themselves can use their bodies to become the machines, swinging those wrecking balls, thumping, smashing and whacking, then biting tearing and slashing (how will they create those jaws?) ramming, bashing and slamming; whishing, splishing and squirting those hoses and more.
Then there are the noises to create – what might they use to make the various sounds in addition to or instead of, their voices. In fact you might read the story and have the children add sound effects.
A must buy for any early years setting and for machine-loving individuals.
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Holidays Far and Near


Wanda and the Alien Go Camping
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Wanda and her alien pal embark on their fourth adventure – camping. Their camp site however, is not the original earthly one planned; that’s far too wet and rainy. Instead the alien takes Wanda in his space rocket to his planet and it’s there they set out to find a suitable place to pitch their tent. Even that however, doesn’t match up to expectations, certainly not Wanda’s anyhow. She finds fault with all the possible spots they visit –


too noisy, too quiet, too wild. Oh dear, can it be that the alien’s planet is entirely unsuitable too. But what about those clouds up above; could they possibly fit the bill?
Seemingly so.


Cloud camping is just perfect; they can invite their other friends and the rain will not interfere at all.
One cannot help admiring the alien’s perseverance and Wanda’s endeavours not to hurt her best friend’s feelings. Indeed the sight of Wanda and her alien friend always brings a smile to my face, as in my experience, it does to many a preschooler. Here, I am sure the multitudes of aliens in alien city with their Day-Glo striped apparel and varying number of eyes, and the cloud camping possibilities will particularly appeal.
Sue Heap’s delightful images are just the thing to stimulate some modeling activities with coloured soft dough, ‘Fimo’ or similar; don’t forget the googly eyes though.
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I Heart Holidays
Clara Vulliamy
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This is a happy book all about MARTHA – that’s me! Come and see my BRILLIANT new suitcase!


Who can resist these opening lines of the third story featuring Martha and her bunny brothers. Young Martha is busy packing all manner of items into her case in preparation for her seaside holiday and finally the entire family is ready.


Off they go in Bluebell, their camper van and after a long tedious journey it’s on with those swimming togs and a mad dash for the sea. Brrr! Not for long though; Pip objects strongly so Martha devises another activity and then it’s time for a picnic lunch – with the obligatory sandy sandwiches. Time to go in the sea now? More objections from Pip so …
After lunch there’s burying Dad in the sand,


ice-creams, the starry sunglasses rescue operation and a sandcastle building competition with the inevitable trashing and then finally … our young narrator has had enough. She heads seawards – alone. Not for long though for pretty soon (despite the downpour) those pesky bunny brothers have joined her for a glorious romp and guess what:

I love the retro VW camper van, the shell face (so typical of young children),


the portrayal of Dad being covered in sand, the exuberance of Martha and her brothers when the sun finally shines … pretty much everything that Clara Vulliamy has included in this seaside romp.
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Catch That Plane!
Sally Sutton and Sylvie Currin Korankova
Walker Books
We join a family in holiday frenzy as they rush to the airport, chase to check-in, dash to departures,


scoot through security, trot down the travelator, jog down the aerobridge and finally, board their plane.


Then it’s a peep through the window, buckle up that seat belt, engines roaring, racing down the runway and they’re off up … up… away! The holiday has well and truly started.
There are echoes of Walking in the Jungle, albeit at a faster pace, in this first person account by a boy setting off on his holiday with his Mum, Dad and younger sister. It’s probably more narrative information that a real story but there’s plenty to interest here with the sights and sounds of the airport and the playful, jaunty rhyme, plentiful alliteration and more. And, just in case it isn’t obvious from the context, there is a final ‘Facts’ spread explaining the terms used in the text.
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Problems, Plans, Perils and Parties


Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon
Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Marmaduke just hates being different. Unlike the other (purple) dragons his skin is faded orange, his scales stick out and his ears are positively elephantine. Protecting princesses is definitely out of the question, so the other dragons laughingly tell him when he asks for their assistance. However, Marmaduke is not only different; he is also determined. So too is Princess Meg and when she gets herself lost in the deep, dark woods, Marmaduke seizes the opportunity to dash to her rescue.


When he finally spreads those unusual wings of his, Meg declares them “Fantastically different!” as they shimmer and sparkle in the sky.


So, does he become her protector? Suffice it to say that although Meg is a strong- minded kind of princess, she does need a friend.
Yes, it’s sparkly and spattered with pink but here is a divergent princess who refuses to fit into a mould and what’s more she accepts and appreciates difference in others. And of course both she and in the end, Marmaduke, show strength of character.
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Shh! We Have a Plan
Chris Haughton
Walker Books
I’ve been a big fan of Chris Haughton since A Bit Lost some four years ago but this, with its intriguing title, is I think, my favourite so far.
Essentially four woolly-hatted friends, nets a ready, (hence the title) spy a colourful bird as they are out walking. The approach of the smallest is a friendly ‘hello birdy’, quickly ‘shhed’ by the others, those with a plan, a catching plan of course. Slowly, they creep, tiptoe, tiptoe … Oops! Missed.
Plan B involves a ladder and a balancing act;


ready… whoopsie! …
Plan C – these are determined characters – paddling upstream … stretching forwards, ready, one, two, three…


Time for a different approach, the little one’s this time; he knows just how to tempt a bird


or two or … O OHHHHH!
Dry humour, quirky characters, a slightly ridiculous, perfectly paced, skillfully suspenseful tale and distinctive, limited colour palette; add to that an eye-catching typeface, images and shapes – the result? Another Haughton must have –I’d get more than one in fact.
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The Big Blue Thing on the Hill
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing pbk
Howling Hill stand far from the city, a quiet peaceful place during the day, alive with the sounds of foxes, and weasels, boars, badgers and bears, wolves too, each making a characteristic rustle, snuffle, sniffle, growl, or howl. Then one night, there comes a rumble, a ROAR and a dreadful vision atop the hill. Wild speculations on behalf of the frightened animals ensue and off they dash to hide in the Great Forest. Back they creep next morning; the trouble remains. Speculations run wild – “a big blue elephant!” say the weasels, ‘a big blue dinosaur!” is the badgers’ decision. (Echoes of The Six Blind Men and the Elephant here). “It’s a BIG BLUE THING” is the foxes’ correct assertion. All agree however that the thing appears to be awake and should be left till it sleeps.
At dusk the animals return to HOOOWWWLLL – the wolves suggestion this –


GRROOOWWLL – that’s the bears; HUFF, PUFF, PUSH and SHOVE – the boars try that. But does the Big Blue Thing budge? Not one single centimetre. Burying, a seemingly possible ploy, is foiled when the Thing makes a “WAKING UP” sound. Off flee the animals to consult the Wise Owls. An attack of the BUZZING WHIZZING ZOOMING kind delivered by a BIG BUG FLYING SQUAD ensues as the sun peeks over the Hill.


Peace and quiet resumes until …


Foolishly funny: those fearful animals with their troubled countenances and plucky plans are an absolute hoot and the surprise ending has caused much mirth among my young listeners who relished every moment of the tale.
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Two Speckled Eggs
Jennifer K. Mann
Walker Books pbk
Ginger wants to invite the girls in her class to her birthday party, all except one – Lyla Browning. Lyla is different, smelling ‘like old leaves’, carrying a magnifying glass and she’s not much of a talker.


Ginger’s mum insists she’s included. On party day, the first to arrive is Lyla but once the others come, things begin to go rather differently from Ginger’s expectations. Ava invents new rules for Blind Man’s Buff, Pin the Tail on the Donkey becomes pin the tails on each other and the egg and spoon and Three legged races are disastrous. Moreover, the silver-and gold cake is anything but a hit, except with Lyla, who until then has stayed in the background. Poor Ginger. But then she starts to think that perhaps she’s misjudged Lyla;


maybe she is actually rather cool.Assuredly her present – a tiny bird’s nest, hand-made and containing two speckled eggs (chocolate caramel-cream and Ginger’s favourite no less) stands out as wonderfully thoughtful and serves as a symbol of a new friendship. Being different is a good thing after all, Ginger decides or perhaps the two of them aren’t really so different anyway.


How good to see a quietly strong, divergent character such as Lyla ; all the more so as her independence of thought and openness come to be appreciated by Ginger. Jennifer Mann’s slightly scruffy crayon outlines filled with soft waterolours, stand out against the largely white backgrounds of the pages
As well as in their facial expressions, a considerable degree of emotion is conveyed through the artist’s perfect placing of particular characters on the page.
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Farmer John’s Tractor
Sally Sutton and Robyn Belton
Walker Books
Thoughts of the recent floods came right back to me as I started to read this rhyming tale of how Farmer John’s tractor – a rusty orangey-red one kept locked in a shed – comes into its own when the river breaks its banks after a very rainy winter.
Down by the river a car is stuck fast: the family inside shouts for help. They manage to climb onto the roof as a series of vehicles — a speedy jeep, a tow truck,


and a fire engine, siren blasting — rush to the scene one by one. Each ends up more firmly stuck than the last. Time to see if Farmer John’s ancient tractor, might still be up to the job?
Belton’s muted watercolour pictures are just right for the prevailing wetness of the countryside setting and Sally Sutton’s strong, rhythmic, rhyming text just right for conveying the power of the swirling, twirling, rushing, gushing water and the muscle power of Farmer John and his chugging tractor.
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Dinosaur Roar!
Paul Strickland and Henrietta Strickland
Doubleday Children’s Books
With a host of opposites dinosaur-delivered, but even more importantly, the powerful message that early reading is (or should be) fun, this rip roaring rhythmic rhymer really packs a punch. What young child can resist the lure of Paul Strickland’s roaring or squeaking


lunch gobbling beasties be they fierce or meek, fast or slow, above or below, weak or strong, short or long, sweet or grumpy, spiky or lumpy …
After twenty years, with its glorious pictures and a cleverly catchy text
this one is still a real winner.
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