Tag Archives: sharing

Good Morning, Neighbour

Good Morning, Neighbour
Davide Cali and Maria Dek
Princeton Architectural Press

It all begins when Mouse decides to make an omelette, the problem being he lacks an egg. Mouse asks his neighbour Blackbird.

Blackbird doesn’t have one but offers flour and the suggestion they make a cake. They both call on Dormouse but instead of an egg, Dormouse provides butter for the cake and suggests they find Mole who has sugar – still no egg however.

Could Hedgehog oblige perhaps. The animals roll up at his home and ask.

No luck; and so it continues as the group adds fruit, cinnamon (for flavour) and raisins to their list of ingredients but as yet not that elusive egg.

Thank goodness then for Bat.

The culinary activities begin with all the animals doing their bit.

Now who can offer the use of an oven? Owl obliges and the cake is duly ready to eat.

“How many slices should I cut?” asks Owl. All who contributed an ingredient must surely get a piece but what about Mouse. Surely he won’t be left out; or will he?

Young listeners and readers will delightedly join in with the growing list of animals as well as the “Good morning, neighbour,” refrain.

Davide Cali’s tale of collaborative endeavour is illustrated in rather charming folk-art style watercolour illustrations that embody the feeling of camaraderie that exists among the forest animals and in the end the ingredients of warmth, friendship and teamwork that contribute towards its making are as important as the edible ones that go into the cake.

A tasty tale and a great lesson in co-operation and sharing that provides plenty of food for thought.

How Rude!

How Rude!
Sarah Arnold
Otter-Barry Books

When Pig, out driving his sports car, spies Mole with a huge box at the roadside, he kindly stops and offers him a lift.
His deed precipitates a chain of action and reaction that begins when he asks Mole what he has in his box. “None of your business!” comes the firm reply. Pig responds thus …

Pig’s pals are sympathetic calling Mole’s reply rude but they too are eager to discover the contents of that box so first they investigate.
Then they speculate

until back comes Mole clutching a key.
He unlocks the box and dashes inside, shutting the door behind him. “How rude!’ say the friends, stating their intention to shun Mole and his box.

Suddenly the door bursts open and a paw beckons them to enter. In go the friends and Mole slams the door shut after them.
Fun over, he looks around for further amusement but nobody is there.

From the box however, music, laughter and song issue forth and as you’d expect, Mole wants to know what’s happening within.

“None of your business!’ comes the response and this time it’s Mole’s turn to feel left out. How rude!

When he unlocks the door, an accident occurs as everyone bursts out, then it’s a case of apologies all round; and a fun time for everyone ensues. HURRAH!

A thoroughly enjoyable story full of expositions and some fun onomatopoeic sounds for listeners to join in with, lively endearing characters both animal and human, and lots to ponder on and discuss about kindness, forgiving, sharing and getting on together: all in all a super book for class, group or individual sharing.

Ceri & Deri:No Time For Clocks / Ceri & Deri:Good To Be Sweet

Ceri & Deri:No Time For Clocks
Ceri & Deri:Good To Be Sweet

Max Low
Graffeg

I’ve not come across this series before but I was very happy to become acquainted with the inseparable cat Ceri and her best friend Deri the dog. The two are always on the lookout for new learning opportunities.

In No Time For Clocks, the two friends have arranged an afternoon meet up but although Ceri is on time, Deri is nowhere to be seen.
When the dog finally shows up there ensues a discussion about their differing lunch times and the problem of knowing when the other one is ready.
Then along comes Gwen Green and she offers the solution: a clock each for Deri and Ceri. Neither has a clue about clocks so a fair bit of puzzling and explaining follow.

Eventually Gwen disappears, returns with the objects in question and shows them how to work their new tools. When they still seem rather at sea with the whole notion of clock numbers, she produces her pen and proceeds to add little pictographs to the faces of each.

Hurrah! Job done. Now all that’s needed is a visit to Tomos’ Tea Room for a spot of tea, cake and chat, but there’s just one slight snag …

Good To Be Sweet finds the owner of Bryn’s Sweet Shop in generous mood when he notices the two friends with their noses pressed hopefully against his window.

He gives them a bag containing 11 sweets with instructions to share them. The problem starts when they realise that having taken five each, there’s a sweet remaining. Who should have that one since neither Ceri nor Deri likes that particular flavour?

This dilemma precipitates several more rounds of sweet giving generosity as Dai Duck expresses a love of certain kinds

until all that remains for the two friends is an empty bag. Oops!

Thank goodness then for Dai the Duck’s altruistic act …

A great way to introduce young children to the idea of telling the time and division respectively, these two books are great fun and educative without being overly so. They also portray the ups and downs of friendship with humour; all this through the amusing dialogue and bright, uncluttered illustrations.

Joy

Joy
Corrinne Averiss and Isabelle Follath
Words & Pictures

Where can you find joy, and once found, how can you capture it? That’s the conundrum young Fern sets herself in this gorgeous story.
Fern’s Nanna has not been her usual self recently; her sparkle’s gone and with it her love of cake baking and even worse, her smile. That’s what upsets Fern most.
It’s like the joy has gone out of her life.” is what her Mum says when Fern asks what’s wrong with Nanna.
Once she’s understood that joy involves experiences that generate a ‘whooosh!’ factor, Fern packs her catching kit into her bag

and sets out for the park to catch some and bring them back for her Nanna.

Sure enough, the park is brimming with joyful moments, but try as she might, those whooshes refuse to be caught in her various receptacles …

and she trudges sadly home.

Now it’s Nanna’s turn to notice how sad her granddaughter is. As Fern recounts her abortive attempts to bring home some joy for her, lo and behold, Nanna’s face breaks into the ‘BIGGEST, WIDEST WHOOOSH! of a smile’ and next day they’re off to the park together.

Corrine Averiss’s empathetic tale showing that unique bond between grandparent and child, is in itself elevating and a gentle demonstration that love is the true generator of joy however manifested: coupled with debut picture book illustrator Isabelle Follath’s tender, mixed media scenes of both sadness and jubilation, this very special book makes one want to break into WHOOOSH-induced handsprings of delight.

Oh me, oh my, a Pie!

Oh me, oh my, a Pie!
Jan Fearnley
Nosy Crow

Grandma bear – a nice old soul – has just baked a pie, a rather yummy-looking one at that.

She leaves it to cool and in a trice, a greedy fox has leapt in the window, seized the object and is making off to his lair for a feast. Fox however, forgets to look where he’s going and whoops! he takes a tumble, the pie flies out of his grasp and lands beside a hungry mouse.

Oh me, oh my,” says Mouse, intent on getting that yummy pie into his tummy as soon as possible and off he goes down the street professing same.

Who should be watching though but a greedy cat and you can guess what happens next.

Cat is the owner of the pie for barely a moment when  a nasty looking canine snatches it

and sets off homewards, only to lose it seconds later to Little Owl flying overhead.

The pie is big – too big for a small owl to manage to get back to her nest: down, down it falls, landing, perhaps you can guess where?

Right back at Grandma’s, just in time for tea, rapidly followed by a host of hungry animals all with their thoughts on the same thing.

Now, being as we were told at the outset, ‘a nice old grandma’, she invites them in to sample her pie, but only on one condition. They have to share.

I wonder if they can …

With a rhyming text that’s a treat to read aloud – especially with that oft repeated ‘oh me, oh my!’ refrain to join in with – and delectable illustrations full of wonderful details to linger over, Jan Fearnley has cooked up a delicious tale that’s destined to become a story time favourite.

The Very Hungry Hedgehog

The Very Hungry Hedgehog
Rosie Wellesley
Pavilion Children’s Books

Isaac the hedgehog returns in a third story – a springtime adventure this time.

The spiky little creature is summarily awoken from his long winter sleep by Starling, but the greedy bird then refuses to share her breakfast worm. “Bad hair day for hedgehog!” laughs the bird before flying off leaving Isaac’s feelings somewhat dampened. Fine friend she is, he thinks to himself but a very hungry Isaac decides to search for his own food. Unknowingly he has a follower as he encounters other non-sharers – first it’s gluttonous Toad – a real tease of a creature.

Next comes a heron that snatches a fat, juicy slug right out of Isaac’s paws and flies off with it

leaving an even hungrier Isaac rueing the day he left that cosy winter bed of his, until he catches sight of some real signs that Spring has arrived, signalling to him a wealth of food for all to share.

He very nearly doesn’t get his share though for, were it not for his quick thinking and his prickles, Isaac himself would have become the next snack for the fox that’s been trailing him all the while.

Even after a very near miss, the kindly little animal is willing to adopt a benevolent attitude about the abundance of food that’s all around for all the creatures to share.

Enchantingly told and vividly portrayed, Rosie Wellesley’s latest story offers young listeners a gentle sharing message and some wonderful scenes of animals in the natural world.

Here are Nina and her parents sharing the story, mum reading the main text and dad supplying the voices

 

That Fruit Is Mine!

That Fruit Is Mine!
Anuska Allepuz
Walker Books

Deep in the jungle live five elephants, fruit lovers all, but content to stick to their own favourites until one day they come upon a new tree, a very tall one bearing the ‘MOST delicious-looking exotic fruit’ they’d ever set eyes on.

Inevitably each one wants that tasty-looking object for him or herself.
MINE!” calls Elephant One, huffing and puffing till her lungs were fit to burst.
Elephant Two launches herself at the tree but fails to dislodge the object of her desire.

The other three elephants are equally unsuccessful despite ingenious attempts, and all the while unbeknown to the pachyderms, but spotted by readers, a group of five tiny mice working together reach and seize the yellow fruit

and carry it away triumphantly. “OURS!

Their teamwork lesson so adeptly demonstrated, is then put into action by the elephants and a combination of their original individual ideas bears fruit of a truly yummy kind.

Even yummier is the tale’s final twist.

Anuska Allepuz’s debut as author is a delectable offering, with its wry humour, theme of the fruitfulness of cooperation and sharing and alliterative phrases to relish. The use of different typefaces for elephants and mice works in harmony with the splendidly expressive, comical illustrations.

Great fun for sharing with one child or many.

Not My Hats! / The Great Big Book of Friends

Not My Hats!
Tracy Gunaratnam and Alea Marley
Maverick Arts Publishing

Polar Bear Hettie has an absolute passion for hats, no matter their shape or size Hettie loves to wear them.

Imagine her reaction then as she sits fishing one day when Puffin happens along desirous of a hat. “I’ll share my lollies, my dollies, my books and my brollies, my flippers and my slippers and I’ll even share my kippers … but I’ll never, ever share my HATS,” she tells him in no uncertain terms.

On account of sudden hunger pangs, Puffin settles for the kippers and disappears.

She repeats this litany again when Puffin reappears and this time fobs him off with slippers on account of his chilly tootsies.

Before long Hettie has dozed off dreaming of hat heaven when who should wake her but a certain black and white bird.

On this occasion Puffin suggests swapsies proffering items from his backpack, each of which is resoundingly refused until he suggests a scarf.

Now there’s a possibility: perhaps Hettie could spare the odd titfa after all.

With its plethora of outrageous headwear, this delightfully daft tale that moves in and out of rhyme, demonstrates that language is fun, sharing is best and friendship better than standoffishness.

Friendship is also explored in this non-fiction book:

The Great Big Book of Friends
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Friendship is the theme of the fifth book in Hoffman and Asquith’s Great Big Book series. Herein the book’s creators explore many aspects of the topic starting by asking ‘What is a friend?’ They then go on to look at best friends, friendship groups, what might be shared, difference, pen friends, imaginary friends, objects that can act as friends such as a favourite toy or comforter,

More difficult ideas including falling out, and losing a friend, are also included, as is ‘How many friends?’
Each sub topic is given a double spread and is amusingly illustrated with Ros Asquith’s signature cartoon-style artwork.
With its chatty style and inclusive illustrations, this is a good book to explore with a class or group as part of a PSHE theme.

Swapsies / Say Sorry, Sidney!

Swapsies
Fiona Roberton
Hodder Children’s Books

There’s a delightful lesson in the importance of friendship and learning to share in this latest book from talented author/illustrator Fiona Roberton whose books have all been winners with me.
Fang has a favourite toy, an amazing yellow, stripey, squeezy, thing with an aroma of bananas; he loves Sock more than anything else.
Enter Philip with his magnificent shiny red train, which looks a whole lot more exciting than Sock. Being a good sharer, Philip agrees to a swap.

A similar thing happens with the bouncy toy belonging to Simon. But then disaster strikes …

and Fang is left toyless and missing his old favourite.
Is he to be without his beloved Sock forever more or is there perhaps a way they can be re-united.
Fiona’s characters are adorable; her dialogue superb: “What happened to Ball?” asked Simon. “Ball is no longer with us,” says Fang; and the finale (which I won’t divulge) leaves room for the children’s imaginations to take over and draw their own conclusions.

Say Sorry, Sidney!
Caryl Hart and Sarah Horne
Hodder Children’s Books

Resident of the zoo, rhino Sidney feels lonely so he decides to make a break for it and heads for the farm.
Once there, the creature starts helping himself to anything and everything that takes his fancy. First he scoffs Mr Potts lunch, then ruins all the washing on Aunt Ann’s clothes line. How wonderfully affronted she looks …

Not content with that he destroys young Emily’s den and smashes all her favourite toys. Even worse, despite their protests of innocence, everyone blames their loss on whichever farm animal happens to be on the scene at the time.
Rhino? What Rhino? / That cannot be true. / There’s only one rhino / and he’s in the zoo.” Is what the accusers all say to the accused.
Come the evening, those farm animals have had enough; time to confront that rhino and teach him a lesson they decide.

Will Sidney finally see the error of his ways, learn some manners and become a valued member of the farm community, or will it be back to the zoo for him?
With its join-in-able repeat refrain, the jaunty rhyme bounces along nicely and Sarah Horne’s wonderfully quirky characters, both animal and human, are quite splendid.

Ash Dresses Her Friends

Ash Dresses Her Friends
Fu Wenzheng
New Frontier Publishing

I’m always interested to discover new illustrators and authors and thanks to New Frontier Publishing I’m meeting Chinese author/illustrator Fu Wenzheng for the first time.
Having grown up in a temple in China she draws on her childhood experiences in her illustrative style employing an, Ink Wash Painting technique (known also as literati) using just three colours to create her multi-layered images.

Her story is simply told and features a shy, lonely, azure-winged magpie named Ash.

One day Ash finds herself face to face with a sad looking elephant. The reason for his sadness is that he wants a new shirt.

Ash decides to help and from a length of red material she fashions him a wonderfully patterned one.

Before long the news of her skill and generosity has spread and one by one, a whole host of other animals come calling hoping for something colourful from Ash’s material, and she’s happy to oblige.

She’s even willing to use her last tiny piece to create a cosy quilt for a baby snail.

Once the cloth has gone, so too seemingly, have all her friends and Ash is alone once more.
Surely that is no way to treat such a kind-hearted creature? Absolutely not; it’s now time for the animals to acknowledge her generosity …

Symbolising good luck, happiness and joy, red is an auspicious colour in Chinese culture and here the predominance of red in Fu Wenzheng’s illustrations emphasises Ash’s friendship and kindness in sharing what she has with others, as well as creating striking images throughout.

Birdy & Bou / A Recipe for Playtime

Birdy & Bou: The Floating Library
Mandy Stanley and David Bedford
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

I’m always on the lookout for stories that promote book loving and library use to very young children and here’s a great little book that does both of those things.
Bou is a red-eared panda and Birdy is, well, a bird.

Bou is an avid reader and when the floating library makes its regular stop at the village, he cannot wait to get his paws on his favourite book again.

Once aboard, he searches high and low but no matter where he looks, Bou cannot find his beloved book. Someone else has got there before him.

Off goes the little panda to track down the borrower, which he does eventually, although its borrower, Birdy, hasn’t quite grasped how to read it. Time for a demonstration and a spot of book-sharing.

So absorbed are the new friends that by the time they reach the river again, the library boat has departed. How can they return the book now?

With its bold, bright artwork, simple storyline and lovely surprise ending, this book with its toddler friendly wipe-clean pages, from the duo that created Roo the dinosaur, have another winner in Bou.

A Recipe for Playtime
Peter Bently and Sarah Massini
Hodder Children’s Books

Following on from their A Recipe for Bedtime, Bently and Massini have created a celebration of play. The toddler herein finds delight in block building, painting, constructing and imaginary play indoors,

before heading outside where there’s a slide, a sandpit, swings and lots of places to hide in when it’s time for a game of hide-and-seek with the toys.

Back indoors once again, it’s time to tidy away before snuggling up for a goodnight story – the perfect way to end the day.

Peter’s jaunty rhyme together with Sarah’s scenes of the fun and games, really do capture the joyful exuberance of the very young at play.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Carnivorous Crocodile

The Carnivorous Crocodile
Jonnie Wild and Brita Granström
Otter-Barry Books

What would you do if you were a thirsty creature desperate for a cooling drink from the waterhole, but the animals warned you of a carnivorous crocodile lurking within and claiming ownership of its waters? Probably you’d stay safely on the bank, but that is not what the five flamingos do.
We’re not frightened of a silly old croc,” is their response on hearing about the likelihood of being crunched by said croc. as they sally forth into the water.

As expected the resident crocodile happens along, jaws agaping and threatening, “I’m a carnivorous crocodile who crunches creatures like you. And this is MY waterhole.
Did those flamingos flinch or show any other signs of fear? Oh no; instead they responded thus: “We are flamingos. WE are pink and beautiful. And WE are NOT FOR EATING! If you eat us, you will have horrible hiccups!
This possibility does not appeal to the crocodile and off it swims.

Heartened by this display of bravado, and encouragement to “Be brave”, three giraffes gingerly enter the water. Before you can say ‘snap’ who should be there repeating his threat but that crocodile, only to be greeted by the same “We are flamingos …” mantra and amazingly off swims the jaw snapper.
Next comes a family of monkeys and off we go again.

This time though the crocodile is a tad suspicious but he swims off nonetheless.

Two eager elephants march confidently forwards and they too claim to be flamingos – pink and beautiful.
The crocodile may not fall for this subterfuge again but he’s certainly in for a surprise, for elephants have other, shall we say, more weighty characteristics …

This learning to share story certainly appeals to children’s (and adults’) sense of the ridiculous; and readers aloud will relish the opportunity to ham it up – certainly this reviewer did. Debut author Jonnie Wild, is passionate about environmental issues and is donating his royalties to charities supporting African wildlife conservation.

Brita Granström’s scenes of the various animals shape-shifting attempting to emulate the flamingo pose and take on the flamingo characteristics are highly inventive and delightfully droll; even the elephants make a brave attempt.

A highly successful collaboration and a great book to share; don’t forget to check out the information on some of the animals and conservation on the final page.

Emmanuelle engrossed in the antics of the animals

The Last Chip

The Last Chip
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing

In the light of the recent controversy over rough sleepers in a certain royal wedding town and my concern and distress at the increased number of rough sleepers I observed in Bristol the other day, Duncan Beedie’s latest picture book particularly resonated with me. Actually, the book is set in Bristol and it’s subtitled ‘The Story of a Very Hungry Pigeon’.

Percy is the pigeon’s name and his life on the streets is a tough one. Percy’s patch is the railway station and it’s here that the hungry creature heads at the start of each day in the hope of picking up a few tidbits dropped by commuters.
On one particular morning though, a gang of voracious pigeons has beaten Percy to it. He’s shoved out of the way and ends up with not so much as a single crumb.

With a rumbling tummy, Percy decides to try his luck at the park and off he flies …

only to discover that he’s no match for the greedy ducks that consume everything that’s tossed their way. They certainly have no intention of sharing, so Percy heads to the seaside.
Here too though, he’s insulted and also physically abused by a resident avian, one giant seagull.

In despair, a very weak Percy heads back from whence he came; but dizziness overtakes him and he crash lands onto the city pavement amidst the melee of homeward bound commuters. Dazed and hungry, suddenly, he hears a voice offering him something very special: “Would you like my last chip?

There’s one spot on a street in Bristol that is a whole lot less tough on that particular night.

From his debut, The Bear Who Stared, Duncan Beedie has gone from strength to strength and it’s great to know that 10% of UK profits from sales of this new book will go to The Trussell Trust, which runs some 425 food banks across the UK.
Beadie’s message is a powerful one but he delivers it with a gentle humour and without a hint of preachiness. From his cover illustration, my heart went out to Percy; and the greedy birds, be they pigeons, ducks or that giant seagull, are deliciously nasty characters.
A thought-provoking story that deserves to be shared and discussed widely.

A Home Full of Friends

A Home Full of Friends
Peter Bently and Charles Fuge
Hodder Children’s Books

Peter Bently does rhyming narrative with aplomb and it’s once again the case here.
Kind soul, badger Bramble doesn’t quite know what he’s letting himself in for when he offers Scuffle the dormouse, toad Tipper

and Boo the hedgehog a bed for the night when they’re made homeless by a storm. Rather that’s all he thinks he has to contend with as he hurries home concerned about his messy sett, stretching his supper to feed four and there only being one bed.
Bramble busies himself making preparations: makeshift they may be but entirely adequate for a badger and three pals.
His thoughts are interrupted by a loud knock at his door and the sight that meets his eyes is more than a little shocking. Three entire families are standing on his doorstep …

Fortunately though, they’ve brought with them everything they’ve managed to salvage from their wrecked homes and it’s not long before, with full bellies, they’re having a wonderful time playing games and sharing a bedtime story

before snuggling up for the night.

Warm-heartedness shines out of Charles Fuge’s beautifully detailed scenes which, together with Bently’s text, make a read aloud book with a compassionate message which is particularly pertinent given recent weather disasters and the ever increasing numbers of displaced people in various parts of the world.

Sofa Dog

Sofa Dog
Leonie Lord
Alison Green Books
When it comes to the sofa, the canine narrator of this book reigns supreme: the only person he’ll allow to share it is the aptly named, young Sophie, his ‘human’. Hence his name, Sofa Dog.

Seemingly others, be they animal or human are unaware of the territorial rule; they too want to share the springy seat. And it seems the doorbell is never going to stop ringing.
Before you can say, “Budge up, Sofa Dog!” there are a couple of cats from next door, three aunties – all avid knitters,

friend Polly plus pony, a host of rabbits, Grandpa (from Bavaria) with his orangutan oompah band, and a panda; and they’ve all piled onto the sofa.
Hang on though, there’s an additional guest, a very tiny one that’s managed to sneak in unnoticed. Now what could that be? And why has everyone suddenly started scratching?
Is this perhaps an opportunity for Sofa Dog to regain his rightful place on the sofa? It can’t be much fun sitting outside all on his own, now can it?

Utterly crazy, and bursting with zany characters to delight both readers aloud and listeners. Leonie Lord portrays every one of them, and the chaos they create, with great panache.
Who can resist falling for the charms of the exuberant Sofa Dog in particular, though I did rather fall for the drum-playing member of Grandpa’s Bavarian band too.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Only Lonely Panda

The Only Lonely Panda
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press

Deep in the forest, a lonely panda sits among the bamboos longing for a friend. He sets his sights on another panda; but how to go about making friends with her, that is the thorny question.
He spends time observing his fellow forest animals: first the flamingos who befriend one another through a graceful dance. Panda’s efforts at fluffy flamingo dancing however don’t quite pass muster; in fact they’re a total flop.
So what about emulating those bouncing sifakas? Surely being springy like those bouncy creatures can’t be difficult and it’s bound to impress the other panda …

Well, maybe not!
Nor can he manage that majestic booby walk like the strutting blue-footed birds, without losing sight of the object of his desire.

And that peacock is in no hurry to part with any of his tail feathers; so Panda will just have to make do …

until the rain comes that is.
It’s a very despondent panda that plods off to eat his dinner all by himself. But then … Perhaps this is the opportunity he’s been looking for: carpe diem, lonely Panda …
What a gorgeous production this is. Its metallic silver ink finish really makes the gorgeous glowing colours of the forest animals stand out.
Jonny Lambert uses the space on the page with supreme artistry: every spread is skilfully choreographed in what seems like a virtuoso performance of an animal ballet.
Moreover, thanks to Jonny, I’ve now made the acquaintance of two animals new to me – the blue-footed booby and the sifaka. His story, with its important message, reads aloud beautifully but it’s those visual sequences that linger long in the mind.

I’ve signed the charter  

My Magnificent Jelly Bean Tree / Ollie’s Treasure

My Magnificent Jelly Bean Tree
Maura Finn and Aura Parker
New Frontier Publishing
Get ready for a spot of taste bud tingling when you read this enchanting tale.
It’s told by a young boy narrator who ponders the mouth-watering possibilities of planting and nurturing a single jelly bean till it grows into a fine fruit-bearing tree. Not possible say some, but this lad knows better.

Such care does he lavish on his tiny bean that not only does he have a ‘slurping, dribbly goo’ inducing crop of plump juicy beans, but the tree is sufficiently strong to bear the weight of a tree house built in its branches; one with a twisty twirling slide for rapid descent.

All kinds of creatures, both feathered and furry, will naturally be attracted to the fruits of his labours, but the lad can deal with those and then crown himself jelly Bean King: a sovereign who can dance naked in the rain,

shampoo himself with bean juice and even find time to invite family members to come and visit.
Having the imagination to entertain possibilities, a strong determination to succeed and a caring nature are the requirements for making the bean dream come true: so it is with one small child.
Those are some of the dispositions we need to foster in all children. This mouth-watering debut picture book from Finn and Parker can help spark that imagination. Rhyming text and whimsical, patterned illustrations together weave a lovely read aloud.

Ollie’s Treasure
Lynn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan
EKBooks
Young Ollie loves treasure hunts, something his grandma is well aware of, so she sends him a map. Thrilled to bits, Ollie embarks on discovering what the treasure might be. He follows each of the instructions ‘… Skip to the tree with the biggest green leaves … wriggle your toes and feel the grass under your feet … ‘ and so on.

When he reaches the end of the trail he’s more than a little disappointed to discover not the truck or the game he’d eagerly anticipated but a piece of card.

He tosses the card away but as it falls he sees the side he’d not bothered to read. It reminds him of his senses and ends by asking ‘How did you feel?’
Only then does Ollie stop to reflect on the sensory delights of the rose’s fragrance, the tickliness of the grass and more; and in so doing, realises that within himself is the capacity for happiness.
Wise gran: she’s enabled her grandson to begin to appreciate that there’s more to life than material rewards.
Essentially this is mindfulness for young children, the book’s author Lynn Jenkins, being a clinical psychologist. Illustrator Kirrili Lonergan characterises Ollie – a young mouse – as full of energy and thoroughly enjoying his engagement with the natural world. Yes, with its focus on attention, attitude and gratitude, it is a touch didactic but as part of a programme for young children’s mental health and well-being, it offers a good starting point for reflection and discussion.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sun

Sun
Sam Usher
Templar Publishing
First came Snow, then Rain and now we have the third of Sam Usher’s enchanting days with Grandad and small boy narrator. Herein, what starts out as a fairly normal day, albeit the hottest of the year: “hotter than broccoli soup“, hotter even than “the surface of the sun“, Grandad deems it perfect for an adventure; and so having collected the necessary items for their foray, the two venture forth in search of the perfect spot for a picnic.
The sun blazes down and pretty soon, Grandad needs a rest, while his designated ‘lookout’ does just that …

You can almost feel the sun scorching them as they trudge on and pause for another rest. Shade becomes the second ‘must’ for their picnic spot, which is hardly surprising, as the landscape has now become incandescent.

Grandpa has added a cool breeze to his list of requirements by the time they reach what looks a likely place.
However, it appears that their perfect picnic spot is already in use.

So it’s a case of all hands on deck; let’s share resources and party …
Once again Sam Usher captures to perfection the closeness of the bond between Grandad and boy, while at the same time portraying the spirit of adventure and utter exhilaration that is brought on by being in the great outdoors, even on such a scorching day.
A sure-fire winner this.

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Rainbow & Opposites / Little Mouse’s Big Secret

Rainbow
Opposites

Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
Pleasing design and adorable illustrations are the hallmark of Jane Cabrera’s books for the very young. Her two latest offerings have both those qualities.
Rainbow has die-cut arched pages that build up to form a rainbow.
It’s a fun board book to enjoy together and each colour spread, with its named items …

could make a great starting point for adult and child to participate in some shared storying.
Opposites uses flaps and while young children acquire concepts such as slow/fast and wet/dry from real life experiences, books such as these can facilitate this development in an interactive, playful way, helping to reinforce the vocabulary.

Here you can play a game with your child or children by asking them to guess what is hidden behind each interesting shaped flap before being allowed to open it. This game also introduces the idea of predicting as an important reading strategy.

Little Mouse’s Big Secret
Éric Battut
Sterling
Little Mouse finds a yummy red apple on the ground and decides to keep it a secret. He buries it. Shhhh! Don’t tell. Friends pass by and each wants to know what Mouse is hiding. “It’s my secret, and I’ll never tell,” is Mouse’s reply to Bird, Turtle, Hedgehog,

Rabbit and Frog.
Nature takes its course and eventually, Mouse’s secret’s out – well and truly. Mouse takes a big decision; he shares and all his friends reap the rewards.

The spare, repetitive text and cute yet subtle illustrations make this best for sharing one-to-one or with a very small group of pre-school children. Equally, it’s ideal for beginning readers who are likely to be sufficiently savvy to realise what mouse doesn’t: that right behind his back, a tree is growing …

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It’s My Pond / Looking for Lord Ganesh


It’s My Pond
Claire Garralon, translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Book Island
There is a pond and a duck – a yellow one that comes upon same. “Wow, nice pond – it’s my pond!” it declares and plunges in. Bliss. Enter stage right another duck, white this time. It too wants the pond. Its “Why don’t we split it in two?” suggestion seems ideal. Another duck appears, a red one …

but that’s no problem: divide the pond three ways. And so it goes on: more and more ducks of all colours of the rainbow appear one by one, and the pond is split into ‘tiny bits and pieces.’ Then … consternation on the part of the in-the-pond ducks … none of them, it transpires, is actually having any fun at all.
“We don’t swim” says green duck. “We just stay put.” “We’re bored, “ says pink duck “and we can’t move!
Leave it to black duck though: it has the perfect solution.

But then what should happen along but a huge hippo: uh-oh!
Wonderful wit on the part of the book’s creator is evident in both words and pictures. Young listeners will have a good laugh over the lovely lessons on negotiating and sharing; and they’ll delight in the notion of what look like the kind of ducks they’ve seen at the fair or school fete being characters in a picture book.

Looking for Lord Ganesh
Mahtab Narsimhan and Sonja Wimmer
Lantana Publishing
I have a fairly large collection of Ganesha images both 3D and 2D so was more than a little amused by the title of this book. A friend asked me the other day, ’Why do you collect them?’ My response that Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, was all that was needed. Herein it’s Anika’s grandmother who had always told her to ask ‘Lord Ganesh’ for help when the girl is anxious over something. Anika has recently emigrated with her family and now is missing her home city Mumbai greatly. However she has made a friend, Hadiya and now has a dilemma.

Anika has the opportunity to join a soccer team but without her new friend, so, she borrows her mum’s tablet and e-mails the god of wisdom asking for advice.
What happens thereafter involves a whole lot of soul searching on Anika’s part, a wise choice (without the help of a response to her mail) and ultimately, an outcome that works for all would-be players, every one of them.

Sonja Wimmer’s vibrant, richly patterned illustrations convey beautifully, both Anika’s and her friend’s thoughts and emotions in this touchingly different story about friendship, inclusiveness, finding your feet in a new environment and discovering your own inner strength to hold fast to what you believe to be right. It offers an excellent starting point for discussion and explorations of a cultural and/or, religious nature.

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Quiet! / The Unexpected Visitor

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Quiet!
Kate Alizadeh
Child’s Play
We join a small girl on an exciting auditory exploration of her (seemingly single-parent) family home. ‘Ssssh! Listen, what’s that noise?’ is her invitation as we follow her from room to room. Staring in the kitchen there’s the bubble bubble of the pan rattling on the cooker, the hummmmmmmm of the fridge, the click of the toaster, the whizz whoosh of the mixer, the kettle rumbles and burbles, the microwave beeps and pings, the pedal bin clanks and Dad at the sink washing up, sloshes and clatters.
Mealtimes are equally noisy with four residents creating all manner of eating-related sounds …

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But there’s more to hear, so our guide repeats her invitation and leads us into the next room where I counted at least thirteen sounds in Kate Laizadeh’s living- room illustration, and that’s without baby brother’s giggles and rattles; even turning the pages of a book causes a swish and rustle

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There’s plenty to listen out for at bath-time and as bedtime preparations are under way, with hair drying and teeth brushing and finally comes one more ‘Ssssh! …’ as it’s time to get into bed ready for Dad’s bedtime story told in suitably hushed tones, and a goodnight lullaby. Those however, are not the last sounds we hear …

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One of the learning experiences most early years teachers do is to take their class or nursery group on a listening walk either indoors or out. (I’ve done it on many occasions). This onomatopoeic celebration of a book is a wonderful introduction or follow-up to such an activity.

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The Unexpected Visitor
J. Courtney-Tickle
Egmont Publishing
A little fisherman lives alone on a rocky island. Each day he takes his boat out, casts his fishing net and waits. His haul is usually plentiful and at night he has plenty to cook for supper. Far too much in fact, but the fisherman always hopes that others will visit, although they never do.
Then one morning he does receive a visitor, a big friendly whale. Although the visitor is far too huge to get inside the fisherman’s home, the two become friends …

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and even go on a fishing expedition together. That’s when the whale needs to teach his new friend a lesson, for the sea is decidedly empty of fish: not a single one is to be found. ”You took far more fish than you needed. That was greedy,” the whale tells him and the fisherman knows it’s so.
A promise is made and in return, the whale takes the fisherman and his boat to another island whereon he can start afresh, with a new home …

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a new fair fishing regime and a whole host of new friends, both human and marine-dwelling.

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With its important themes of sustainability, friendship and sharing, this thoughtful and thought-provoking picture book puts its message across in a manner that, like the whale, packs a powerful punch.
Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s stippled spray effect and the swirls add a touch of maritime depth and magic to the otherwise flat style of her illustrations.

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Lucy Ladybird / Where’s Mrs Ladybird?

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Lucy Ladybird
Sharon King-Chai
Templar Publishing
This is a re-issue and it’s good to see Lucy Ladybird back in circulation once again.
Ostracised by the other ladybirds, the despondent creature takes off and soon meets Fred Frog. He pays her a morale-boosting compliment and gives her one of his green spots. As she continues to fly all through the seasons, her encounters with Carla Caterpillar, Felicity Fish and Bella Bird yield further compliments and three additional spots …

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after which Lucy returns home feeling like a true ladybird, albeit a variegated one. Will she now fit in with the other ladybirds?
Actually no but something much more exciting happens instead and before long a change has come upon the entire community …

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With its themes of difference, acceptance, sharing and friendship this is a super story to share with early years listeners and if my experience is anything to go by, immediate re-readings will be the order of the day.
This one’s rich in potential not only for discussion but creative work – I’ll leave that to your imagination. Sharon King-Chai’s paintbox hued, mixed media illustrations have certainly sparked off a whole plethora of activies, both artistic and other, whenever I’ve shared the story. Vive la difference, say I.

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Where’s Mrs Ladybird?
Ingela P.Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will delight in this brightly coloured hide-and-seek board book wherein four minibeasts are hiding behind felt flaps, one on each spread, except the final one whereon they watch the revelation of a mirror just waiting to be looked in.
The single sentence question and answer per double spread follows the same pattern, for instance …

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and that makes the audience two-fold: beginning readers can enjoy sharing the book, perhaps with younger siblings.

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As Nice As Pie

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Dolci and Ellena relishing the story …

As Nice as Pie
Gary Sheppard and Tim Budgen
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Mavis Manewaring decides to share her freshly baked loaf with a bird one day, little does she expect that within a week she’ll be catering for twenty, all enthusiastically stuffing themselves with her delicious pasties and pastries …

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A couple of weeks later, her hungry throng has reached hundreds: birds of all shapes and sizes– great greedy gannets, a plump parakeet, chubby-cheeked crows, potbellied pigeons and the like have heard the news of the tasty fare Mavis has been dishing up to the avian throng. What’s more it’s not merely bread, but biscuits, buns and bacon baps she’s feeding  her winged visitors. Mavis’s shopping bill must have gone through the roof and now it seems she’s no time for anything else but satisfying the ever-increasing throng.

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Enough is enough decides the long-suffering cook and having baked a giant flan case, she issues an ultimatum to the hungry hoards: either join her in a co-operative venture or become the filling for that “Birdie Surprise” flan.

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For her guests, blind-folded at her request and already knee-deep in gravy, it’s a no brainer and before long there’s a new co-operative enterprise operating in the village …
Rhyming stories seem to be all the rage at the moment but unless they’re well written, the rhyme works against them. This one of Gary Sheppard’s, with its sprinklings of alliteration and jaunty rhythm works a treat. Add to that Tim Budgen’s chirpy, chucklesome illustrations and the outcome is an altogether tasty read aloud. And then there are those counting opportunities and potential for discussions on teamwork and sharing.

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Big Bob, Little Bob / Mine Mine Mine Said The Porcupine

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Big Bob, Little Bob
James Howe and Laura Ellen Andersen
Walker Books
The possibility of friendship seems unlikely when Big Bob moves in next door to Little Bob: the boys are just so different and it’s not just their relative size; their interests are totally different too. Little Bob likes quiet activities such as block building and playing with dolls; Big Bob’s play is altogether more boisterous. “Boys do not play with dolls,” he asserts. Despite this Big Bob does make efforts to involve his neighbour in his play …

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but nothing can bring the two round to the same way of thinking or doing.

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However when a girl moves into their neighbourhood, the first person to jump to Little Bob’s defence when she questions his choice of play activities is none other than Big Bob. “Hey! You stop picking on my friend!” he tells her. “Boys can do whatever they want!” Gender stereotyping is seemingly not so fine now.
But then it turns out that Blossom prefers trucks to dolls: can the three find a way to accommodate everyone’s choices …
Any story that challenges gender stereotyping is worth a look in my book. This one is delivered with a gentle humour that is accentuated by Andersen’s comical scenes of the children at play. Definitely a book to share with those around the same age as the characters herein; it will give them plenty to think about and discuss.
Also looking at building friendship is:

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Mine Mine Mine! Said the Porcupine
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
Alfie returns and this time he has a porcupine as his visitor; a porcupine whose sharing skills leave a lot to be desired. Alfie does his best to engage the porcupine in some play, but everything he offers is immediately seized by his visitor. “Mine!” he claims at each attempt.

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Eventually, Alfie decides enough is enough and leaving the possessive creature to his own devices, he goes to play on his own. Now the porcupine has what he wants – or has he? Can he perhaps find a situation where that word he loves so much, is appropriate?

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A gentle lesson in sharing delivered in a rhythmic text easy enough to read so that those around Alfie’s age can try it for themselves. Emma Levey portrays the porcupine as hirsute making him appear cuddly rather than a prickly character and he certainly knows how to talk with his eyes.

This Book is Out of Control / Happy Hooves Yuk!

These two picture books welcome back some old friends:

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This Book is Out of Control
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
The perils of the remote control are explored in this third comic romp starring Ben and Bella, not forgetting Bella’s dog of course. It all starts when Ben turns up clutching his new favourite toy – a remote controlled fire engine. Eager to show off his control skills he begins by demonstrating the UP button but a press yields no response or rather the ladder stays fixed: Bella’s dog doesn’t as we readers can see. Ben and Bella however are oblivious to the action taking place inside the house behind the door, which nestles in the gutter of the book and Bella has firmly closed.
With their eyes fixed firmly on the ladder Ben tries another button, which results in this …

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I’ll leave you to imagine the results of pressing the siren button. Ben tries VOICE, which yields an utterance from the dog who opens the door revealing his predicament to the children. Things go from bad to worse despite Ben’s frantic button pushing and it’s then a case of over to you “Dear reader” especially as the expert remote controller has started to turn a delicate shade of green. Things are getting pretty desperate up top when readers are addressed once again …

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Does this work, you might be wondering – it certainly appears that one of the characters is in control …

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but we’re still left with one button none of them has tried …
With some rather crazy interactive opportunities, this is somewhat more sophisticated than the previous stories in the series. For me, the dog is undoubtedly the star of the show here.

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Happy Hooves Yuk!
A.Bogie and Rebecca Elliott
Fat Fox
The third Happy Hooves story sees Pig deciding to treat his pals to a culinary feast. But even after his careful preparations things don’t go quite as he’s planned. Cow turns her nose up at the first dish; Foal frowns at the second;

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Donkey is decidedly disturbed at the third and Sheep shudders at the thought of what she’s offered. Poor Pig: it seems none of his favourite dishes tempt his friends. He has one final course though: could this be the one? It certainly looks pretty scrumptious … let the party begin!

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I envisage a whole lot of ‘eughs’ and ‘yucks’ when you share this engaging rhyming tale; and as a veggie, I found myself in total sympathy with Pig’s friends about his offerings – definitely disgusting! Let’s celebrate friendship and chocolate cake instead. Let’s also celebrate Rebecca Elliott’s patterned scenes: I love the retro style and the occasional bordered spreads.

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Focus on those frogs …

A Bottle of Happiness

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A Bottle of Happiness
Pippa Goodheart and Ehsan Abdollahi
Tiny Owl
A Bottle of Happiness – now that’s something we could all do with from time to time; but how could it be caught and then put into a bottle? Well the first part’s easy: we can infect people with our own happiness; but bottling it? That’s altogether different. It is however the challenge young Pim is faced with in this neo fable when, accompanied by Tiddle, his dog, he crosses the mountain.
Now Pim and his people lived on one side of this mountain: they worked hard and shared what they had – stories in particular. On the opposite side lived the rich people who were traders, intent on getting richer: they didn’t give, they sold things to one another at a big market. Pim decides to go over that mountain in search of a new story and it’s there in the market place he finds himself looking at a basket of mouth-watering fruits. The seller of same doesn’t give things away though and so Pim, a perceptive and thoughtful lad, agrees to bring him happiness, the one thing his own people have more of, in exchange for some of the fruit.

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Back he goes and collects song, laughter, music and love from his fellow villagers. With all this safely stored in a bottle, back he goes; what comes out when he removes the stopper however, is total silence – but not for long …

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Now how could that be, and how does Pim manage to bring about an amazing transformation in the relationship between the sellers and the givers? That would be telling; and I think I may already have. For the rest you’ll need to get hold of a copy of this book and savour the delights of Ehsan Abdollahi’s intriguing peasant style patchwork illustrations.
This is a book that demonstrates that rather than being just for the vey young, picture books really are for all ages.
I asked some children what they would put in a bottle of happiness. Here are some responses:
A trampoline, a diving board, my brother, my family’ James 8
‘My family, a smiley face, a tennis court, a football pitch’ Daniel 7
‘Smiles, hugs, music, books, tortoises, love, flowers, art’ Rosa 7
‘Friendship, love, snow, sweets, beaches, Easter, sunshine, mice’ Nina 10
‘Love and respect’ Dolci 5
‘Mummy and Daddy’ Elena 3
‘Swimming with friends on holiday’ Gracie 7
Food for thought …

Owl Bat Bat Owl

Owl Bat Bat Owl
Marie Louise Fitzpatrick
Walker Books
I’m a big fan of wordless picture books and this one is a cracker. It features two families one of owls, one of bats.
As the story opens, the owls are happily settled on their roomy branch enjoying some shut-eye when all of a sudden along comes a family of bats. They too decide to make their home on that self same branch so we then have …

Unsurprisingly the two families are circumspect: after all owls and bats don’t really make the best of friends.
After a fair bit of positional adjustment, the families both prepare to sleep but baby animals, like humans are inquisitive and so you can probably guess what happens after this …

Now we know that human children are much more ready to accept newcomers than are most adults. The same is true of owls …

though mother owl soon has her youngest offspring back where she wants, beside her and all is peace and quiet. But when the chips are down and disaster strikes in the shape of a storm,

differences don’t seem to matter – co-operation is now the name of the game.
This book works on so many levels and is open to a multitude of interpretations. We often talk about the power of words: here, picture power rules.
What a wonderful demonstration that reading is about so much more than getting words off the page.

I Can Read It: That’s (Not) Mine & What’s An Apple?

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That’s (Not) Mine
Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant
Hodder Children’s Books
The Anna Kang/Christopher Weyant partnership take the two characters – one large and one small – from their wonderful You Are (Not) Small and feature them in this equally hilarious incident from childhood.
The ownership of a big comfy chair is in dispute as the two furry creatures both claim it as theirs. Big, with needles a-clicking – is occupying said chair at the start of the book when in bursts Small. The squabble starts to escalate (parents and early years teachers will immediately recognise the scenario) with the knitter refusing resolutely to budge …

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But then in comes Small wheeling a deliciously squeaky, revolving office chair: guess who wants a go …

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and is more than happy to leave his previous perch, hurl himself onto the inviting-looking alternative and ZOOM wildly … oops! – till there comes the inevitable – tee hee! Argument over: err, no: it looks as though it’s starting all over again …

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Will those two ever sort things out?

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Well yes –but … there’s a lovely final twist to this delicious cracker of a tale. A brilliant lesson in sharing and taking turns but equally it’s a perfect book for beginner readers. The dialogue is punchy, the humour spot on and the illustrations wonderfully expressive. It’s a universal experience – emotionally intense – that deserves a universal readership.

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What’s An Apple?
Marilyn Singer and Greg Pizzoli
Abrams Appleseed
If you’ve never thought beyond the title question, your immediate response will probably be, ‘It’s the fruit of an apple tree.’ So it is; but this little book takes a look beyond the obvious, although it does start there. ‘You can pick it.’ we are told on the first page but thereafter the imagination starts to take over, as a girl and boy explore all manner of possible uses for apples alongside the conventional ones. You can, so we’re told, kick it, toss it and use it to play skittles with …

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or even baseball perhaps. Or why not try a spot of juggling, although you’ll need rather more than one for this

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as you would if you follow some of the other suggestions. Apple sauce requires a fair few of the fruit, as does making juice or even apple bobbing. You can give an apple a wash – always advisable especially if you intend using it for a smile …

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you might even give it a bit of a cuddle. My favourite suggestion though is this one …

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although I’m totally in favour of this ‘You can eat it anyplace.’ sentiment too.
The quirky rhyming text is easy to read, making the book a good one for early reading and Greg Pizzoli’s illustrations are sure to bring on a smile, or many.
As a beginner reader wouldn’t you much rather read something fun like this that a dull scheme book?

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Play and Pondering Possibilities

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Blocks
Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow
Most children, young and not so young, delight in block play. It’s brilliant for developing concentration, spatial understanding and creativity; and, sometimes, sharing and co-operation: however, at least at the outset of this story, not the last two.
First off we meet young Ruby busily balancing and building with her blocks – all of one colour notice.

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Along comes Benji with his blocks intent on doing a bit of constructing and off he goes. Soon both are absorbed in their play …

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But then, Benji reaches out (hand across the gutter) for one of Ruby’s blocks, seizes same leaving a cross Ruby desirous of her block. “Mine!” each of them shouts and pretty soon, catastrophe …

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Time to repair the damage and work together; that way lies a super co-creation …

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until Guy appears on the scene. Guy has green blocks. What do you think will happen now? Maybe these endpapers will give a clue …

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A wonderfully simple story on the sharing theme that will surely pack a powerful punch with early years audiences; it’s a must have book for pre-school settings and families with very young children and even has die-cut block shapes on the front cover. What’s more, with its easy to read, brief text, this debut picture book is ideal for those just beginning to read for themselves.

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Over the Ocean
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
This book was first published in Japan over 30 years ago but it still has plenty to say to children today, especially those of the contemplative kind. It features a girl who stands at the water’s edge gazing out across the ocean waves and wondering. ‘What is in the ocean over the ocean?’ she asks; ‘Are there farms over the ocean?’ or …

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Maybe there are kids living there’ and ‘Are they all friends?

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She never moves from her lookout spot but continues pondering on the possibilities of fairs, animals, the night-time, different climates and  other watchers …

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and then makes a wish. A wish that, so it seems in her mind’s eye at least, is about to come true … Her longing is heartfelt and readers will surely feel it too.

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The whole thing is a marvellous, if quietly spoken celebration of the imagination and the wide, wonderful world. I particularly like the way that the author has given the girl a credible child’s voice: ”Maybe there are kids living there … I bet there are probably some bullies.” She certainly doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind there.
Those who look closely will notice that the details in the illustrations open up further questions – where are all those boats going, especially that ocean liner? Whither the air balloon? And many more in addition to those the girl herself raises.

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To Share or Not to Share

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Dave’s Cave
Frann Preston-Gannon
Nosy Crow
Here stand Dave. Dave have cave. Cave perfect. Animal friends like cave. Dave not happy. Want new cave. Dave go search. Three caves not good – too small, too big, too much noise …

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Two caves nice but Dave no share. Jon no share …

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Dave no happy.
Nice cave?

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It’s definitely a case of east, west, home’s best in this deliciously droll story told in clipped caveman speak and wonderful visuals that say so much more than the spare text Every turn of the page is guaranteed to bring laughs of delight if my audiences are anything to go by, not to mention a whole lot of staccato style speech by way of appreciation.
In addition to being a delight to read aloud, this book is a great one to offer those in the early stages of learning to read. Put this alongside those dull reading schemes – there’s just no competition …

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I Have an Orange Juicy Drink
Andrew Sanders
Fat Fox
A small boy has a delicious juicy drink – a yummy, orangey, tasty one – orange squash one suspects. But when an alien, an elephant and a dinosaur …

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attempt to seize said drink its owner decides to teach the would-be takers a lesson of the squishing kind. Now it may seem that this is somewhat extreme particularly as he uses a garden shed …

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an ocean liner and – wait for it – the moon as squashers or rather, squishers. It does mean however, that our young narrator still has hold of his drink when along comes his brother (plus constant companion of the feathered kind) eager for a share of the juice. And moreover, the fellow knows how to ask properly.

 

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So, three things happen: one – he gets a some of the drink, two – he gets a hug and three – a lesson is learned …

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Squishing, it appears, is rather less damaging than squashing.
Simplicity and sheer ridiculousness are what make this book such fun. With a limited colour palette and minimal text, Andrew Sanders delivers a deliciously neat lesson in manners that will appeal to young and not so young alike. I’m still pondering on how the lesson-giver managed not to choke himself in some of the positions he adopted to partake of that juicy drink.

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Food Favourites

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Gorilla Loves Vanilla
Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne
Scholastic Children’s Books
Fancy some ice cream? Then head down to Jellybean Street and there you’ll find Sam’s Sundaes, a favourite haunt of ice cream aficionados of a rather unusual kind. And young Sam Sundae doesn’t seem fazed at all when five of them arrive at once as soon as he opens up shop.
First in the queue – and yes they do queue, no pushing and shoving here – is a little mouse and his request is for a sundae tasting of blue cheese. I said nothing fazes our Sam and straightway he presents the mouse with some cheesy ice cream. His next order is for “fish finger ice cream in a dish” – you can guess who would want such a disgusting-sounding thing.
Chicken’s favourite comes in a cone, and it’s wormy and squirmy. YUCK! Cow’s penchant is for daisy ice cream and Sam quickly obliges once again …

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And as for hippo, he doesn’t even want to eat what he orders …

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Last in line is a gorilla and his taste is rather more conservative – “Just give me a cone full of good old vanilla.” is his request. And now, judging by the way they’re staring, the others might be having second thoughts about their choices as Sam adds yummy toppings of sprinkles, chocolate chips and sticky fudge sauce to gorilla’s order …
Chae Strathie’s tasty tale bounces along in exuberant fashion and is sure to have young listeners EEEUURRGHING loudly at the thought of some of the orders and giggling as hippo makes messy use of his selection.
Nicola O’Byrne’s equally exuberant illustrations are to be relished too: just take a look at the cat and mouse tucking in together here …

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More food fun in:

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Hugless Douglas and the Great Cake Bake
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
A honeyless breakfast is something Douglas just cannot contemplate so having discovered his cupboard has been raided, he follows the sticky footprints (and his nose) until they lead him to …

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When the sheep tell him they’re collecting ingredients to make honey cakes, Douglas is eager to help – no surprises there! With berries, nuts, carrots and of course, honey duly assembled, and Flossie in charge, the cooks set to work …

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Having finished the task, Douglas cannot wait to try the product of their labours but has to join the line of eager cake consumers awaiting the oven’s PING! The sheep however, are less polite than Douglas and pretty soon a fight breaks out and is only halted by Flossie’s announcement “The cakes are ready!” There follows a mad scramble in the direction of the delicious aroma emanating from the oven door but do you think those crazy sheep gave Douglas a look in when it came to consuming those yummy cakes? Definitely not; but their actions do result in a partial re-education of our hugging friend’s taste buds as he samples the surplus – carrots, berries and nuts, declaring they’re “… ALMOST as good as honey,”.
With instructions on ‘How to decorate cupcake sheep’ on the final spread, this latest Hugless Douglas offering is sure to tickle the taste buds of young listeners who will delight at the humorous interplay of text and visuals –

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and be duly shocked at the sheep’s shenanigans.

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Tufty/The Grumpy Pets

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Tufty
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
Subtitled ‘The Little Lost Duck who Found Love’ this story starts in the grounds of Buckingham Palace where we meet a family of ducks and in particular the youngest, Tufty who we are told ‘always struggled to keep up.’

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The Royal residents of the palace – the Royal Duck and Duckess – (looking decidedly like the feathered residents) feed the duck family when they take their lakeside perambulations and keep them entertained with grand parties in the palace ballroom.

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With winter fast approaching, it’s time for the ducks to fly south to warmer climes Father Duck announces, and very soon, they’re on their way. Unable to keep up, Tufty is left behind and flies down to a subway on a traffic island where he discovers a kindly homeless man. The man takes Tufty back to his makeshift shelter in a hollow tree and there he looks after him …

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right through the long winter months.
Come spring, Tufty is much bigger and stronger and one day he sees his family overhead flying back to their lake in the palace grounds. Tufty joins them and as the number of ducks on the palace lake increases day by day, he notices one particular little duck that takes his fancy. Soon after, the two of them return to the lake in the woods where the kindly man warmly welcomes them.

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Foreman’s glowing watercolours are unfailingly wonderful, particularly in their portrayal of the contrasting scenes of the lush green palace grounds and the high-rise blocks of the city skyline; and the rainy urban roundabout and the peaceful hollow chestnut tree abode of the man beside the small lake.
Readers and listeners will warm to the plight of left-behind Tufty and the kindness of the man who gives him shelter and food, despite having very little of his own.

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The Grumpy Pets
Kristine A. Lombardi
Abrams
When a mother takes Billy and big sister Sara to Perfect Pets, the animal rescue shelter, it’s in the hope that it will give her somewhat disagreeable son something to smile about. Seemingly everyone else, including Sara, has managed to find their ideal pet …

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but young Billy remains decidedly sombre.

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Off he goes to look around the place, a place that seems full of happy animals, not his thing at all. But then he hears ’BARK!’, ‘GROWL!’, ‘Hisssss!’ which leads him to …

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and in particular one that’s ready to give as good as it gets and more …

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resulting in an “I’ll take him!” from Billy who knows when he’s met his match. Thus begins, one suspects, as we see boy and dog heading home, a wonderful friendship that will bring a whole lot more smiles where Billy is concerned.
Populated by endearing characters human and animal, this is a warm-hearted story of mutual rescue that is most likely to appeal to pooch lovers and those who sympathise with small, sometimes grouchy boys.

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This Is My Rock

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This Is My Rock
David Lucas
Flying Eye Books
There’s a David McCord poem I’m fond of with the same title as this book; that and the goat on the cover proudly proclaiming ownership of the tall structure instantly predisposed me to think positively about David Lucas’ latest offering. I most certainly was not disappointed. In fact I love everything about it.
In short, the young goat already mentioned, standing atop that rock announces to all that dare approach, that it is his and not theirs. (Those of us who work with children will be familiar with that one. You need to share, we tell our charges.)
It’s not only goats who challenge him: a large eagle, a woeful-looking bear, several wolves,

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even a tiny bird (watch that one) are all sent packing. Goat stands firm atop that rock of his – all alone and unsure of his next move.
Time passes; he calls, dances

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and starts to feel hungry. Hmm maybe it’s not quite such fun being all by himself, thinks that strong- willed character. Perhaps it’s time to start reaching out …

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Everything about this book is a delight: the unusual colour palette, the borders, every page layout and design, the story of course – it’s told entirely through dialogue with the minimum words,

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though they surely pack a punch; and the fact that it’s not the stroppy goat who has the final word, or should it be ‘tweet’?

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Having read the dedication inside the front cover, one could read all sorts of things into Lucas’ short story but that’s the thing about a good book – it leaves plenty of space for readers to make their own interpretations. Readers who could well be in the early stages of their reading journey are just one of the possible audiences: everything about it makes the book perfect for beginners (reading scheme books just don’t stand up against the likes of this), but it’s much too good to be confined to beginners alone.

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