Dinosaur Day Out

Dinosaur Day Out
Sara Acton
Walker Books

Like the child characters Sally and Max in Sara Acton’s story, most young children love dinosaurs, so there’s always room for just one more dinosaur book.

We follow the exploits of the children as they visit the museum with their dad only to discover that on this particular day the dinosaur exhibition is closed.

Instead Dad buys a book about dinosaurs and they head into the city.

As they explore Dad reads the book telling the children about the diplodocus, the pterodactyl,

the stegosaurus, the tyrannosaurus and lesser-known dinosaurs but so engrossed is he that he fails to notice the exciting and occasionally alarming things around him.

Cleverly conceived, this is a case of showing not telling where the text and illustrations are delightfully mismatched. Little ones will delight in being in the know as Sally and Max give their imaginations free rein as they delight in the opportunities offered.

Woven into the narrative are some basic facts – dinosaur facts to please dino-curious youngsters, while all will enjoy the predominantly watercolour illustrations.

An Ungrateful Neighbour & An Unexpected Guest

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Little Oleg
Margaret and John Cort
Hodder Children’s Books
A special 50th anniversary reissue of a classic picture book from the Cort husband and wife partnership.
Eric and Oleg are great friends. When Oleg’s slumbers are disturbed one night by a banging on his door, he discovers an alarmed Eric. “Come quickly! he urges. “My house is on fire.” Off dashes Oleg leaving Eric in a state of collapse only to find that nothing can be done to save the house. Good friend that he is, Oleg offers to share his home with his pal and agrees to help him build a new one.

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From then on, Eric really does take advantage of his unselfish host eating him out of house and home, and leaving him to do most of the work building the new house. Thus, Oleg’s vegetable crop is neglected and he’s forced to ask the miller for a loan.
When he asks Eric for some help however, Oleg is given an old coat and this leads to a turn in his fortune,

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thanks to the gold buttons with which it is adorned. But is his erstwhile friend ready to share in his good luck: what do you think?
A charming book with delightful retro illustrations executed with a limited colour palette. The whole thing has something of a folksy feel to it that works so well with the rather mannered telling.

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It’s a longish story so it might need two sessions; equally, children at that in-between stage just before totally assured reading will enjoy it as a solo read.

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The Unexpected Crocodile
Kim Kane and Sara Acton
Allen & Unwin
It has been raining buckets for weeks and there’s water everywhere – even in the chops awaiting cooking: Peggy and her family are expecting guests for dinner. Suddenly there is a Snap Snap! Tap Tap! at the door. It’s not the Dawson’s however, but a dapper-looking crocodile sporting red bow tie and clutching a matching brolly.

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Unbothered by the offer of soggy bakery buns, he is eager to join the dinner party and so is invited in. Not long after the Dawson’s duly turn up bearing “a little croquembouche we whipped up earlier.” as Mrs Dawson puts it.

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Seemingly the Dawsons are far from your ideal guests: the boys are extremely picky eaters and a game of parental one-upmanship rapidly ensues until Peggy’s mother offers coleslaw to the crocodile. “ No thank you. … I’d care for Mrs Dawson,” he replies and SNAP! From there on things go from bad to worse (though perhaps not from the host’s viewpoint) as the crocodile demolishes the rest of the Dawson family one by one leaving only …

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Moreover, he has the audacity to leave before desert having responded to the host’s “Do you always eat the guests? It’s a terrible habit.” With “Not usually … it must be the weather.
One cannot help wondering if the illustrator was perhaps a pupil of Quentin Blake: her ink/watercolours do bear a slight resemblance to the master artist. She captures that croc’s personality to perfection and her wry scenes are a fine foil for Kim Kane’s dryly-humorous writing. Kane’s matter of fact way of telling reminds me of a cross between Roald Dahl and Paul Jennings. Her word-play is wonderful too and will amuse adults readers aloud as well as the intended child audience, as will Peggy’s mother’s response to the whole sorry evening. What a great introduction to farce this book is, while the fact that young Peggy is twice shown with a book showing a crocodile – once at the beginning of the evening before the arrival of any guests

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and once when they’ve all gone – leaves room for audience interpretation, as does the final endpaper scene.
I do hope this story (that originated in Australia) gets the UK exposure it deserves.

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Circles, Shapes & Time with Esther,Moose & Wilfred

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Esther’s Rainbow
Kim Kane and Sara Acton
Allen & Unwin
As she sits eating her lunch one Sunday, Esther spies a rainbow tip poking out from under her stool – soft, warm and smelling like honey.
But as Esther slides her fingers over the rainbow it vanishes and thus begins a wonderful multi-sensory exploration for Esther and readers alike as she spends the rest of the week searching for it. On Monday she finds violet – in a bruise on her shin, in the velvety-feeling a couch

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and in the taste of Granny’s chocolate creams.
On Tuesday she finds indigo in ‘a wonky hat’, in shiny, hard nail polish and in the smell of the cool midnight sky. Wednesday’s visit to the swimming baths reveals blue in her brother’s ‘swim-cold lips’ and the echoing pool. On Thursday there is green of fishpond slime

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and in the mint smell as she crushes its leaves. Friday is yellow day, with sticky egg yolk and warm tasting pears and Saturday brings orange – a duck’s beak, tea stains and the feel of clay.


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Then it’s back to Sunday once more and there’s red in the ruby-seeds of pomegranate, in the warm bricks of the garden wall and in the smell of her Gran’s roses but still no rainbow.
Monday comes again bringing a rain shower, breakfast pancakes, a honey-hum and at the edge of the mirror– joys of joys as the hum grows louder and light is refracted by her mum’s ring – her very own special ‘rainbow to sing her own.’
There is something awesome about a rainbow to both children and adults – those shimmering hues and almost magical the way it appears. The author and artist have captured this magic in both text and pictures. Kim Kane has chosen her words so well to encourage young listeners to engage all their senses to explore the world around – to see the colours, but also to smell them, feel them and taste them.
Sara Acton’s gentle watercolours are the perfect accompaniment adding further feeling and depth to the story: a story that skillfully and unobtrusively weaves in the days of the week as well as the colours of the rainbow and reads aloud beautifully. And what a delicious ending:

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Esther’s rainbow ends not in a pot of gold, but a pile of sweet-smelling honeyed pancakes. It’s pitch perfect, this one.

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Circle, Square, Moose
Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky
Andersen Press pbk
Having recovered from his near wrecking of an alphabet book, Moose is back on the attack; this time it’s a book about basic shapes he’s invading. Everything starts well with the introduction of a circle.

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Turn the page though and here we go …
that mischievous moose is already making his presence felt. The unseen narrator tries to keep cool: gently ticking off the intruder and moving on to the next shape – triangles. Guess who’s there (plus feline friend) to complete the didactive rhyme: “A TRIANGLE is A Wedge of Cheese/A piece of pie

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Both are told to leave but does Moose do as he’s asked – no chance; he’s even started wielding that paint brush to make his presence felt more strongly.
Enter stage right: an arbitrator, Zebra (also from the alphabet book). He’ll sort things out – err maybe.
Not before a riotous chase wherein Zebra gets entwined in ribbons, and almost frazzled. Then it’s time for Moose to step in and save the day, or try to, with one of the shapes –

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This involves the pair of them exiting through a kind of black hole thus saving the book and further forging their friendship with the help of yet another shape –

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Zebra’s favourite and, what’s more, Moose offers a rhyming finale specially for his pal …
Madcap frolics, endearing characters, all manner of fonts, speech bubbles and riotous illustrations and a few simple shapes, (yes one might argue that some of the examples such as the triangles aren’t, strictly speaking, mathematically accurate.) But hey! This book is about having fun, not learning maths, after all – what more can anyone want?

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What’s the Time, Wilfred Wolf?
Jessica Barrah and Steve Smallman
QED Publishing
Wilfred Wolf has a little problem: he cannot tell the time. So, when he receives Ella’s party invitation he has a problem – how will he know when 3 o’clock comes? He certainly doesn’t want to miss the fun. His pal Boris lends him a cuckoo clock – that should do the trick – 3 cuckoos means 3 o’clock. However the clock doesn’t survive until then, nor does the digital watch Amelia lends him. Perhaps Oscar Owl’s offer of three hoots down the chimney will work.
William dresses up for the party and waits … he hears three hoots and off he goes to Ella’s house.

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Oh dear, Wilfred; don’t you know that owls are nocturnal creatures? Back home he goes and sleeps soundly well into the afternoon. Does he ever get to the party?

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Let’s just say, he has some thoughtful and enterprising friends willing to play that well known children’s game to help him on his way.

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