Baby on Board

Baby on Board
Allan Ahlberg and Emma Chichester Clark
Puffin Books

Storyteller extraordinaire, Allan Ahlberg, has teamed up with some wonderful illustrators over the years and here he is partnered by another; Emma Chichester Clark, who provided the pictures for his Mrs Vole the Vet, one of the Happy Families series.

This is a story – an epic adventure – that has its origins in the author’s infancy when two girls used to call at his home in the Black Country, asking to take baby Allan out for a walk in his pram.
It begins thus:
‘Once, many years ago,
there was a baby,
in his pram,
with his sisters
and their sandwiches and lemonade
and toys,
and their friends
and a kite,
and a dog or two … ‘

From there it takes off into a lilting tale wherein baby and minders are separated on account of a kite, and the infant in its pram sails off, along with a trio of toys, into the open seas.
Fortunately the toys are able to make the babe warm and comfy; but coping with the sudden storm that blows up is much more of a challenge, though it’s one the three are up to.

Unexpectedly however, three becomes two thanks to an inquisitive puffin, the arrival of which precipitates a fall overboard by panda. Happily the other two are able to perform a timely rescue and the pram sails on into the setting sun, with its complete crew and a somewhat whiffy baby.

Eventually the baby carriage drifts to shore once more with its four passengers safe and sound, albeit pretty exhausted; and all ends happily thanks to terrific toy teamwork.

Stunning artwork by Emma Chichester Clark – love the 1930s pram and children’s attire –  transforms Allan Ahlberg’s super story into a super, super story. It’s perfect as a bedtime book, or equally as a shared read at any time of the day.

At Sea with Captain Cranky & Mayday Mouse

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Captain Cranky & Seadog Steve
Vivian French and Alison Bartlett
Little Door Books
Captain Crankie lives with his canine pal Seadog Steve beside the sea. They spend their days taking villagers and visitors to watch seals and dolphins in the Mary Rose, and their evenings together in their tidy home. However, the locals are a messy lot: they leave all kinds of rubbish lying around spoiling the look of the place and upsetting the captain. Enough’s enough, he decides and he and Steve drag and haul all the rubbish back to their house, load it into the Mary Rose and set off out to sea where they jettison the lot overboard, leaving it to sink down into the depths. Before long though, there is a whole lot more rubbish …which also ends up in the same place deep under the waves much to the consternation of mermaid Millie. She resolves to speak to Capain Crankie and next evening she’s there waiting atop a rock as the Mary Rose heads out with another cargo of rubbish. Before long Millie is leading the Captain and Seadog Steve on a deep sea dive to see the results of the Captain’s thoughtless dumping.

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What’s to be done? It seems Seadog Steve might have a good idea up his sleeve…

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The result of the villagers’ fishing expedition is certainly some unexpected hauls; but it’s not long before everything has been put to a new and exciting use and everyone is happy.

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An important environmental message is embedded in this charming story. It’s told in a straightforward manner that is easy to read and easy to absorb without being simplistic, by Vivian French; and through Alison Bartlett’s richly coloured, detailed illustrations.

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Mayday Mouse
Seb Braun
Child’s Play
I really love Captain Mouse’s spirit of determination and optimism in the face of adversity. She sets out in her walnut shell boat one sunny day with an important mission – to deliver her brother’s birthday present. Her friends bid her “Bon voyage” warning her to keep watch for “big waves and watery perils” and instructing her to shout “MAYDAY” should she need their help. Mouse however is convinced all will be well; but then the wind drops. Undaunted, she whistles a sea shanty three times and lo and behold, back comes the wind and off she goes again with the wind getting stronger and stronger …
Suddenly, down comes the rain, the boat starts filling with water and a storm blows up …

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tossing mouse and boat into the air and towards a crashing sound and ‘a dark and dangerous cave’.
Quick-thinking Captain Mouse steers past only to find herself about to crash into some large rocks and the next moment …

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What is it that Mouse is thinking? Surely not “This is the end of me!” as she hurtles onto a small sandy island where, cold and exhausted, she’s soon fast asleep.

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Is she going to be left stranded or will she eventually reach her brother and deliver that birthday surprise? It’s fortunate then, that she keeps her cool, remembers her resourceful friends’ instructions and …

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Here they come with everything needed for a quick repair to her boat and off they go.
There’s a lovely musical finale that delighted my audience and had them joining in with the birthday greetings .

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Despite the very damp interlude, this is a thoroughly heart-warming story with a plucky little heroine. Good on you Captain Mouse. Did you spot the polluting object in that final scene? It was certainly a hazard for our heroine.

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Family and Friends

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My Grandparents Love Me
Claire Freedman and Judi Abbot
Simon and Schuster
That special relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is explored in this charmer of a book, narrated by a young zebra, be it the welcome embraces, gifts in the bedroom, a baking session with indulgent, ever-patient Gran …

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an outing to the funfair rounded off with large ice-creams and a picnic or a spot of rocket building in Grandpa’s shed,

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a stay with Gran and Grandpa is bound to be loads of fun.
Sometimes though, the young zebra has his grandparents to stay at his home where boating or swimming lessons might be the order of the day,

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followed by a noisy musical interlude before it’s time to snuggle up close for a story sharing session before bedtime.

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With bit parts played by additional friendly-looking jungle animals, Judi Abbot’s excursion scenes provide extra entertainment for young listeners while the zebras young and adult take the star parts throughout, be they indoors or out and about.
Claire Freedman’s warm story will appeal particularly to grandparents and the very young who not only share that special loving bond part and parcel of which is the joys of book times together.

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Together …
Emma Dodd
Nosy Crow
A mother sea otter and her young one spend a day together sharing the beauty of the rising sun, then watching and dreaming as the clouds drift by. They laugh and play in the water, learning new things from one another …

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and sometimes, just drifting side by side, holding paws and watching the sun start to sink as the day draws to its close. Togetherness days such as that are the ones both mother and child will remember.
Simply beautiful, full of tenderness and perfect to share with the very youngest, this latest of Emma Dodd’s Animal series has alternate spreads that sparkle with silver foil.

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Pip and Posy: The New Friend
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Best friends Pip and Posy are spending a day at the beach but their friendship seems threatened when Pip goes off to play with Zac …

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while Posy snoozes in the sun. So noisy is their laughter that it wakes up Posy who is none too happy and feels excluded.

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Off go Zac and Pip to buy ice creams with Polly following behind but then down swoops a seagull and snatches Zac’s ice cream. Who do you think offers the very last coin so he can buy another one?
Established friends of Pip and Posy will doubtless welcome the opportunity to catch up with their activities and delight in the final co-operative effort.
In addition to being a fun story to share with early years groups and individuals; the easy to read text makes it a good one for those just beginning to read for themselves to enjoy (once you’ve shared the story first). Axel Scheffler’s illustrations as always offer plenty of humorous details to delight and to talk about.

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