Skandar and the Unicorn Thief

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief
A.F. Steadman
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Thirteen year old Skandar Smith, a modest boy, longs to become a unicorn rider. This would allow him to get away from his grieving father and school bullies; indeed so his dad tells him, his now dead mother once promised him a unicorn.

Forget any previous unicorn notions you might have: the unicorns in this story are either bloodthirsty and wild or, hatched by specially called 13 year olds and then joined together with a magical elemental bond either air, earth, fire or water. Skandar has always yearned to hatch and then bond to a unicorn and now it’s just weeks away from the Hatchery exam that could offer him the opportunity to do just that. c

However on the day of testing, his hopes are dashed when inexplicably, he’s told he cannot take the exam. Back at home in bed that same night, there’s a knock on the door. It’s a woman come to take Skandar secretly to the island Hatchery so he can try to open the door behind which are the unicorn eggs. With barely time for his sister to wrap their mother’s special black scarf around Skandar’s neck and a quick ‘Be better” farewell to his Dad, the boy and woman are off aback a white unicorn. This woman – Agatha – also warns Skandar about an evil being, the Weaver.

Tension builds as Skandar endeavours to work out the Weaver’s plan; he’s troubled when the group of children who see his unicorn hatchling, notice the mark of the deadly forbidden fifth spirit element, which is wielded by the Weaver. Now Skandar must learn to trust his new group, all of whom must keep his dangerous secret.

Prepare yourself for enormous challenges, shocks and betrayal in this gripping, suspenseful story that will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the very end of Annabel Steadman’s terrific debut novel.

Hiding Heidi


Hiding Heidi
Fiona Woodcock
Simon and Schuster
Young Heidi has a special talent: she’s able to blend in with her surroundings – effortlessly and very successfully …


She’s a natural camouflager which is particularly useful when it comes to a game of hide-and-seek with her friends.
At her birthday party you can guess what Heidi wants to play – and off she goes to hide …


A search ensues but Heidi’s just TOO good – all her pals find is some delicious ice-creams.
The party continues and finally Heidi’s friends discover where she is – right at the end though. and they duly depart leaving their host to do a spot of pondering.
Next day when the gang meet up, there are some different activities on the agenda and each one of the friends is able to shine at one game …


or another …


Fiona Woodcock’s picture book debut surely allows her artistic talents to shine: this is a real corker. Those beautifully textured, subtly coloured pages and the wonderful characters thereon, make for captivating scenes at every turn of the page. I can’t wait to see what follows. Meanwhile, this one’s perfect for one-to-one sharing and reading with a class or group.
I can envisage children being inspired to experiment with the art of camouflage using some of Fiona’s picture making techniques such as printing, and using stencils, blow pens, paints and more.

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You Must Bring a Hat


You Must Bring a Hat
Simon Philip and Kate Hindley
Simon and Schuster Children’s Books
Most of us get excited when we receive invitations; however, this particular one received by the young boy narrator of this story …


causes the lad a deal of consternation: he doesn’t own a hat. The shops are sold out – completely …


What’s the little fellow to do? Ermm: maybe a monkey sporting a hat might be a good place to start –

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even if the creature won’t part with his titfa.
Off goes the boy (with ‘hat’) to the venue where there is what seems to be a particularly jobsworth type of fellow on the door. “Sorry Sir, but we’re under strict instructions not to let in any hat-wearing monkeys … unless they are also wearing a monocle.” I ask you … What this doorman does and says thereafter, leads to a succession of supremely silly situations involving piano playing,


tutu wearing, cheese slicing (or not) and more until our narrator can finally take no more …


That isn’t entirely all though: what comes thereafter is ALMOST unbelievably, stupendously ridiculous and it will have children (and a fair few adult readers aloud,) splitting their sides and almost wetting themselves in delight.
What a nexus of hilarity Simon and Kate have created here. Every word of Simon’s has seemingly been weighed for maximum impact; and every scene just exudes wonderfully wacky details of the hatty, and hatless, Hindley kind.


Hat’s away and get your copy forthwith; you’ll surely love it like I did. STU-PEN-DOUS!

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Monster Encounters

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The Bath Monster
Colin Boyd and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Have a bath or the Bath Monster will come and get you –a monster that lurks beneath the bath slurping up the mucky water – his second favourite food – through a special bendy straw: surely that’s nonsense isn’t it? It’s certainly what Jackson’s mother tells him to get him into the tub every night.
Until one day Jackson decides he’s outgrown his belief in said Monster and he’s covered from top to toe in thick mud. “Go and have a bath now or the Bath Monster will come and get you” warns his mother. But, Jackson is having none of it.

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So what will that Bath Monster have to satisfy his hunger instead? His number one favourite food, of course and seemingly Jackson is about to find out what that is …
Tony Ross’s Bath Monster is a magnificently mucky being and as readers ultimately discover, a creature after Jackson’s own heart. Every one of the illustrations for Colin Boyd’s unlikely tale brims over with delicious humour and I suspect adult readers aloud are going to get as much enjoyment from this one as the young children they share it with. The sight of that small (temporarily clean) boy being dangled unceremoniously above the bath on the first page sets the tone for the whole story

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and the picture of Jackson sitting in the tub in his protective gear is superb.

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Assuredly another Tony Ross triumph and a promising debut story for Colin Boyd.
Before we read the story I asked my audience to imagine a bath monster of their own; here are some of their ideas:

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There’s a Monster in my Fridge
Caryl Hart and Deborah Allwright
Simon & Schuster
‘What’s that hiding behind the door? It’s feet have squelched across the floor …’
so begins this split-page mock-scary visit to a monster-filled house on a hill.
Those who dare defy the KEEP OUT sign will encounter among others, the jelly-eating monster of the title, a glittery witch, a startled vampire …

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twin skeletons in the bathtub and an itchy werewolf …

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With such visual jokes as dancing toothpaste tubes, hairbrushes …

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and alarm clocks, and a surprise finale, this one is definitely a whole lot more fun than fright but worth a read around Hallowe’en nonetheless.
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Love Monster & the Scary Something
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unable to sleep one dark shadowy night, Little Monster lets his imagination run riot when he hears a rustling sound in the garden,

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a sound that seems to belong to something that’s found its way inside his very own house and is pitter-pat …. pittery patting around on its terrible hairy feet with terrible twisterly toenails and scuffling and bumping its way up the stairs.

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And it surely has enormous teeth for crunching …
Suddenly Love Monster decides there’s only one thing to do: be brave and confront the hungry creature, so it’s on with the torch and … What could that be looming in the doorway?

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Turns out it’s just another insomniac seeking someone to share the lonely darkness with – and a very tiny one too.
A lovely funny story about facing your worst fears, especially those relating to the dark with just the right degree of scariness for a bedtime read and great fun for Halloween sharing.

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Exciting  Children’s Books Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October


A Froggy Tale and A Squiggly One

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Sir Lilypad
Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie
Simon & Schuster pbk
What a gloriously exuberant celebration of magical happenings and some not so magical too: well, on second thoughts everything about this tale of tiny would-be hero Little Tad and his valiant attempts to gain recognition as Sir Lilypad is pretty magical. It all begins when our pea-sized amphibian reads a book wherein he learns of the amazing transformation from frog to prince by the bestowal of ‘one small kiss from a grateful royal miss.’

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Finding a princess to obtain a kiss and thereby add to his stature then becomes his mission. Off he sets and consults with an ogre, but he is less than helpful and the search continues in forest and field, a witch’s residence and that of a wizard,

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all to no avail. But the quest must continue, stitch, itchy chainmail and soggy sandwiches notwithstanding. Then joy of joys, he glimpses …

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Does this damsel need saving by the gallant Sir Lily? Oh dear me no; and despite his best roaring and sword-wielding efforts, the dragon is at best disdainful and the princess unimpressed.
All is not lost however and after a fantastic show of wailing and beseeching the princess proffers her own words – of wisdom – and more. But who wants to be a story-spoiler, so lets move hastily on a few centuries to the grand finale of this triumphant tale, for that’s ultimately what it is. And a splendid one it is too with it’s dream of a read aloud rhyming text and utterly magnificent scenes of derring-do.
Get this or be sorry: the sword-swooshing, Sir Lilypad will be hot on your trail.

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The Queen’s Spaghetti
Patricia Cleveland-Peck and Tim Archbold
Harper Collins pbk
Queen Nellie and King Jim aren’t your normal royals: they’re not rich and to top up the coffers King Jim works part time at the Royal Mint. Nonetheless, the Queen is a cheerful soul, working in their large garden by day and cooking Jim’s supper on his return from work. On this particular day, feeling especially hungry herself, she decides to rustle up some spaghetti and tomato sauce – one of the King’s favourites too. “Iggly-wiggly spaghettio” she sings as she boils up an enormous pan of the stuff and sets to work on the sauce. Soon however, the pan is overflowing and swelling spaghetti fills all the royal saucepans and it’s slithering all over the kitchen floor. Oh dear me: if there’s something King Jim hates, it’s waste, thinks the Queen as she tries valiantly to feed it to the cat, the dog and even the royal peacock.

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But none of them has more than a cursory taster.
The ducks are more obliging as are the hens and the geese; but there’s still an awful lot to dispose of. Thank goodness then for the royal pigs: pretty soon they …

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A delicious aroma greets the hungry King on his return but what do you think happens when he requests a second helping of the scrumptious meal …

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With a nod to the traditional magic pasta pot tale and a wink to the porridge pot, Patricia Cleveland-Peck has cooked up a tasty concoction with a regal base, a sprinkling of farmyard animals and a saucy finale. All in all, with Tim Archbold’s giggle-inducing accompaniments of the visual variety, this re-issue is destined to tickle the taste buds of a whole new child audience. They will relish the riotous scenes, especially the spaghetti-entwined farmyard fowl, and delight in Patricia Cleveland-Peck’s pleasingly playful textual servings.

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Animals and a Vegetable



Dolci and her mum enjoy the story together

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


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


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


Those pals of yours have done an amazing job, just keep your paws off that door, little Mouse,
The author says he was inspired to write this amusing story when listening to Flanders and Swann’s The Gas Man Cometh. The slightly understated telling certainly works well and the built-in repetition and cumulative nature of Mouse’s expletives delight young listeners. So too do Sally Anne Garland’s cute illustrations executed in muted shades of blues, greens, browns, pinks and greys; and the whole thing is printed on high quality paper – an added bonus.
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A Day with the Animal Mechanics
Sharon Rentta
Alison Green Books pbk
Young Dylan Basset’s big day has arrived. He’s off to help his Dad at the garage he owns. When he arrives he sees the mechanics already hard at work; there’s so much to learn,


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


Guess who gets the vote for best mechanic that day. Now you’ve all earned a refreshing seaside dip too…
Rich in detail, with plenty to amuse, explore and absorb, this latest episode with the Animal work force is sure to please young audiences and those who share the book with them.
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Cheese Belongs To You
Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books pbk
Starting once again with a simple scenario, the creator of the brilliant There are Cats in this Book and There are No Cats in this Book has co-created a hilarious, totally brilliant, crazy story concerning the ownership of cheese, or rather, one particular, holey chunk of the stuff. Rat Law has it that, if any rat has the cheese, that rat is the owner of same –


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


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


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


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


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


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


Gerry Turley
Squeak”, “Meep” two baby owls wait hungrily for their mother owl to return with some nourishment before they take their first flight. Then it’s a case of ‘flap your wings and swoosh’ or rather flop and flump, swump, and swoosh.


One ‘whoa’ … follows the mother into the wild woods; the other remains on the branch, “waaa”, stuck. All around other animal sounds come closer, “gnash gnash” and “nosssssssshh” …
Just in time, with an almighty “Screeeeeeeeech!” comes father owl and oops. Time to get those wings moving little one… flap flap off he goes –


just – up and away, even as high as the moon …


Beautifully simple, beautifully told, this tale of a maiden flight is rendered through a brief text comprising brief sentences and animal noises together with illustrations crafted with deft strokes of pen, brush and crayon.
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Tiger on a Tree
Anushka Ravishankar and Pulak Biswas
Tara Books pbk,
A baby tiger wanders off, crosses the river, encounters a goat that causes him to dash up a tree and there he surprises the village men who now have a dilemma: what to do with the animal. They confer on the tiger’s fate and fortunately for all, the decision is in its favour … Satisfyingly circular in nature – the opening ‘Tiger , tiger on the shore’ is the book’s finale too.
Told in slightly erratic rhyme, that swerves across the pages, this tale is full of drama and tension: Armed with an enormous net the men cry


Get him! Net him! Tie him tight!’… ‘He’s caught. He’s got. Now what?
The tiger colour illustrations around which the author wove her tale are wonderfully expressive and abound with energy; Biswas was one of India’s leading illustrators, so this paperback edition will surely one hopes, help keep him in the public eye.
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Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble
Tatyana Feeney
Oxford University Press
Little Frog was happy being the only offspring of Mummy and Daddy Frog. So, when he learns of new additions to the family – nine no less – he is far from impressed. Can tadpoles build with blocks, play drums, jump even? Oh dear no. Moreover their doing nothing commands all of his parent’s time so,


no bedtime story, no goodnight kiss, just one thoroughly fed-up Little Frog.
But as we all know, tadpoles quickly grow into little frogs and soon …


One big, happy family.
As with her two previous titles, Tatyana Feeney’s limited use of colour and brief text combine to great effect producing a charming whole that, despite the small size of its main character, is much greater than the sum of its parts.
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More about new additions to the family in:


Miffy and the New Baby
Dick Bruna
Simon and Schuster
Once again, Tony Mitton has created a new translation, in rhyme, of the original story wherein Miffy is thrilled to learn of a forthcoming addition to her family and straightway gets to work making treats for her new sibling to be.


And, what a proud big sister she is when she finally holds the baby bunny and when she takes that special ‘Welcome Baby’ cake to school to share with all her friends.
Full of charm, as ever.
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A Search in the Fog, A Race in the Forest, A Flight from Danger


Hog in the Fog
Julia Copus and Eunyoung Seo
Faber & Faber pbk
Shrew, Lil has invited Harry the Hog for tea at three:
There were chocolate-chip beetles and slug-flavoured chips
and warm jellied maggots with fruit-flavoured dips;

and all manner of other goodies already on the table.
Three o’clock comes, then a quarter past; Lil looks anxiously out at the gathering gloom. By four she can wait no longer so donning her raincoat she sets out,

Pittery pattery, tippety tappety’ up the hill in search of Harry.
First she encounters a sheep, but the sheep’s not seen a hog, just a hedge so she thinks, ”where no hedge was before.


She offers to help Lil search though and off they go together. The deer they meet has seen, he thinks, only “The wings of a bat … pinkish and flat.” But he’ll help look for the missing hog; so too will the crow who has seen naught but a sleeping snake on a log.


Into the woods go the four as the swirling fog gets ever thicker until, around the next corner …
What’s that THING. The bush? The bat? The snake?
By now, young listeners will be unable to resist shouting the identity of the large hairy, ‘bog-soaked, mud-smeared’ creature that, after a whole lot of pulling and pushing, eventually comes slippily, slurpily, gluggily, gurgly from the muck. And guess what; he’s absolutely starving.
Good job that at her house, as Lil says, “it stays TEA o’clock for a very long while.”  Tuck in everyone!
Delicious, delectable and such enormous fun to read aloud. The rhyming text just trips, like those loving prepared treats of Lils, right off the tongue.
Equally praiseworthy are the wonderfully expressive watercolour illustrations, which capture the drama and the gentle humour to perfection making every turn of the page a treat too. Particularly gorgeous and an unexpected delight are deer’s fantastical , butterfly-attracting, flower-wrapped antlers.

Billed as ‘A Harry & Lil story’ I hope this indicates more to come from the charmingly unlikely wild boar/shrew duo.
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The Great Race
Nathan Kumar Scott and Jagdish Chitara
Tara Books
In the third of the series of folk tales featuring trickster, Kanchil we find the boastful mouse deer proclaiming himself to be ‘the fastest animal in the forest’ and challenging the other animals to THE GREAT RACE OF THE JUNGLE. Having called upon the help of scarlet macaw, Kakatua to spread the word thoughout the forest, Kanchil waits by the riverbank to see who takes up his challenge.


Soon, every animal appears but none save one tiny voice speaks; the voice is that of Pelan the snail. Laughable, thinks Kanchil on discovering the only contestant is to be a tiny snail; his laughter is echoed by the other animals but none steps forth other than tiger Harimau with an offer to act as referee and Gajah the elephant, the finishing judge.
The race begins, off zooms Kanchil, only to reach the finish in – shock horror – second place.


A second race is called by Kanchil, against the river flow this time, but again Pelan gets there first.
How did a slow snail beat a fast deer? Have you guessed? Suffice it to say that the over-confident Kanchil is outwitted by a guileful Gastropod (or two).


This amusing story (a kind of Hare and the Tortoise tale) is Nathan Kumar Scott’s retelling of an Indonesian folk tale brilliantly brought to life by Gujarati, Waghari artist, Jagdish Chitara. Jagdish used the same ancient artistic techniques and traditional blood red, brilliant white and black colours to portray the animals in this secular book as are used for the special ritual cloths for the Mother Goddess, called Mata Ni Pachedi (the cloth of the mother) traditionally used as temple hangings.
Another stellar book from the Indian publishing house that specializes in books illustrated by highly talented Indian artists.
Look out soon for quality paperback editions of some of Tara’s backlist to be available shortly.
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Dylan’s Amazing Dinosaurs: The Tyrannosaurus Rex
E.T.Harper and Dan Taylor
Simon and Schuster pbk
In Dylan’s incredible tree house he keeps important things; things like Wings, his toy pterodactyl and Grandpa Fossil’s Dinosaur Journal. Opening the latter brings the former to life and he becomes the vehicle for Dylan’s journeys of discovery.
We join Dylan as he and Wings set off to discover the number of teeth the T.Rex had. Their search for the answer results in a face-to-face encounter with the enormous creature itself – WOW! Those gnashers.
Quick Dylan, find something for it to sink those teeth into and flee for your life …


So does our young hero escape and does he discover the answer to his dinosaur dentition question?


Take a look at that log…


then turn to Dylan’s T.Rex fact file and find his latest numerical entry.
With its ever popular topic, some delicious alliterative sound bites, fascinating, embedded facts (the author is herself a palaeontology professor), boldly rendered action scenes and a removable pop out T.Rex, this, the first Dylan adventure, is bound to be popular with young children particularly budding palaeontologists.
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Cuddles, Crime, Cavemen and a Question


I Want a Cuddle
Malorie Blackman and Joanne Partis
Orchard Books pbk
First published over ten years ago, this story written by current the Children’s Laureate, about Little Rabbit and his search for a cuddle still holds its original charm.
Having injured his paw during a game of hide-and-seek, Little Rabbit is in desperate need of a cuddle. Hedgehog is sympathetic but too prickly, likewise Squirrel (too tickly), Badger – he’s too bristly, Toad is lumpy, and bumpy, not to mention squidgy.


Poor Little Rabbit sets off home through the forest but who is that bushy-tailed creature sneaking up behind her?
And who else needs a cuddle now?


Funny, tender and with just the right amount of suspense to keep young readers engaged throughout; this is a lovely story-time read aloud for nursery settings as well as individual listeners. Joanne Partis’ boldly coloured, illustrations rendered with thick strokes, daubs, spatters and mixed media manipulations are a delight.
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Top Top Secret
Claire Freedman and Russell Ayto
Simon and Schuster pbk
The bond between, reader, author and main protagonist – a young secret agent spy – are immediately established in this vastly amusing rhyming tale. Herein Sid accepts a mission to recover the Royal Ring bearing the king’s secret seal from the clutches of a dastardly dragon and return it to its place in the royal vaults. Off he goes creeping in the shadows till he comes upon a large drain lid; out comes his trusty magnet, up comes the cover, down slides Sid. Then propelled by his supersonic pulley he whizzes through the shaft, out onto a river (his raft a-ready there), under a bridge, oops -! Having narrowly escaped the waiting shark’s jaws,


he comes upon a sign:
Once inside the dragon’s lair, he discovers the ring’s whereabouts and is on the point of seizing same when ROAR! The dragon wakes; smoke and flames burst forth; OH NO! Sid’s has lost his anti-dragon flare. Time to resort to something altogether more tricky and DEFINITELY, much more sticky, Sid.

And does our Sid succeed in retrieving and returning the precious object to its rightful place? Erm well… those telescopic super-charged skis and that trusty magnet do come into their own and we leave our hero sound asleep in his comfy bed so … What do you think?
Rendered in skillfully scurrying rhyme and through suitably off-beat illustrations, this fast-moving, very amusing tale is such fun to share with young audiences large and small. If the former though, make sure individuals have opportunities to revel in the hilarious details of Russell Ayto’s deliciously idiosyncratic artwork.
Overall design, the variety of fonts used, Ayto’s choice of colour palette, the minutiae of detail within the scenes be they wide screen or small close-ups, all add to the impact of the book.
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Jill Lewis and Simon Rickerty
Simon and Schuster pbk
Previously for Simon Rickerty it was crayons; now, along with the characters he depicts, a quartet of troglodytes no less (those drawn by the little boy of the story), it is pencils that take centre stage. Actually just the one pencil, in fact. The particular one being that which rolls over the cavemen’s fire extinguishing it but bringing to life said picture. Thereupon the bemused cave dwellers attempt to make sense of this mysterious object; they try eating it, and climbing it before one of their number, Colin, hits upon tool wielding. After some serious carving and chopping an impressive result is achieved.


‘ BURNA BURNA ROAST TOASTA!’ shouts the excited Flint but then out of nowhere seemingly, there leaps a hungry tiger, jaws a-gaping. Plan B I think guys.
After a pretty close call though, things take a turn – or rather they don’t – for the worse.

You didn’t notice that tree then? Time for another one of Colin’s good ideas …
But …


Have a sausage instead! UG-A-LUG! A happy ending? Certainly, so long as you are a carnivore that is.
Jill Lewis’s matter of fact manner of telling with its sprinkling of troglodyte talk, works wonderfully well as a counter to Ayto’s over the top artistry, with its brilliantly expressive caveman countenances as they go about their comical caperings.
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The Wonderful Egg
Dahlov Ipcar
Flying Eye Books
Is it a mystery story or is it an information book? First published in 1958 and now in a new edition, this lovely book is actually both. It tells how long, long ago when all the earth was covered in jungles a wonderful egg sat solitary in a mossy nest beneath a giant fern tree.


But whose egg is it?


A dinosaur’s perhaps, or did it belong to one of the marine or flying reptiles that lived over a million years ago?


Dahlov Ipcar transports us to that prehistoric world and takes us through a multitude of possibilities before revealing the answer.


Her wonderful illustrations have been ‘remastered’ from the original edition. The limited palette of shades of green, brown, grey and pink and the bolder black blocks, shading and outlines creates scenes at once dramatic, subtle and timeless.
In addition to the narrative, readers are provided with a helpful pronunciation page and a double spread showing the relative sizes of the creatures featured.
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Rabbits Don’t Lay Eggs!
Paula Metcalf and Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Macmillan Children’s Books
Bored with his lonely, dark burrow life, Rupert the rabbit hears happy farm sounds beyond the wall and decides to seek a new home there. He tunnels under the fence and POPS up just as Dora duck has finished her new nest, ruining her precious creation. Less than pleased, Dora endeavours to find Rupert something useful to do on the farm, no easy task despite Rupert’s confidence and enthusiasm.


Such enthusiasm even leads him to believe he can lay an egg. He doesn’t, but after considerable straining and pushing, something else does pop out from his nether regions.


So, what can Rupert do to earn his right to stay on the farm? Well, what are rabbits expert at? Getting under things that others cannot – like fences between hungry animals and fields of delicious juicy carrots. Now, there’s a job that will please his new friends, Dora included, so long as she thinks he’s ace layer of all those tasty vegetables… hmmmmm!


Young audiences will love Rupert’s misunderstandings, the shared joke between the author, Rupert and themselves. And, like Rupert’s new-found friends, they’ll relish the visual treats supplied by the bold, bright pictures of Cally Johnson-Isaacs whose scenes, be they full spread or smaller vignette style, are both funny and full of charm, in this farmyard romp.
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The Spring Rabbit
Joyce Dunbar and Susan Varley
Andersen Press pbk
I cannot believe this book is twenty years old. It’s a story I’ve always treasured since it first was published and kept as a special one to share, with fours to sixes especially, towards the end of the Easter term. It tells of young rabbit Smudge who lives with his parents in the woods and is the only one not to have a sister or brother. “Wait until the spring,” is his mother’s response when he asks why he has no siblings. Spring however seems a long way away. So, in autumn Smudge makes a leaf rabbit to be a brother but leaf rabbits cannot play chase, neither can the snow rabbit he makes for a sister in winter, join in a game of snowballs, nor the mud rabbit brother he builds as the snow melts, enjoy splashing in puddles with Smudge;


in fact it is soon washed away by the rain.
At the first signs of spring, Smudge begins his search for his new sibling but he finds only baby mice, speckled eggs in a robin’s nest and frogspawn in the pond. Sadly he returns home to tell his mother but there awaiting him is a wonderful surprise;


not just one baby brother but two … and a baby sister as well. Then it’s not long before they can all enjoy Smudge’s specially built, great big moss rabbit.
Smudge and his friends remain as adorable as ever. Susan Varley’s water colour pictures are infused with tenderness and just a hint of gentle humour making them the perfect complement for Joyce Dunbar’s sensitively told story of longing and new life.
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Miffy’s Play Date
Illustrations by Dick Bruna
Simon and Schuster Children’s Books
It was something of a relief to discover that thoroughly modern Miffy, who has a play date with her friend Grunty, looks almost the same adorable rabbit she’s always been, despite this new and very now, experience and her slightly broader, digitally rendered mouth. The two pals have fun building a block castle, playing hide and seek, role-playing and much more. All too soon, it’s time to tidy away and Miffy bids farewell to her friend.
Simple, cute and just the thing for the very young to enjoy with an older family member or friend who can not only read the story but also share the instructions to the sticker finding activities. I am at a loss though to understand why the publishers feel a need to flag up this as ‘Practise fine motor skills’ alongside, ‘Relate to a child’s first experiences’. Books should be allowed to speak for themselves – surely the instructions are sufficient anyway but to use ‘early years’ jargon as a sales tactic is, in my opinion, wrong and diminishes the prime purpose of such books, which should be enjoyed for their own sake.
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Miffy at the Zoo
Dick Bruna
Simon and Schuster Children’s Books
Thankfully there is no such message on the new edition of this old favourite. Herein, Miffy and her Daddy take a train ride to the zoo where Miffy encounters animals large and small. Poet Tony Mitton has reworked the original texts with his consummate skill as a writer of verse, giving them a modern, yet timeless appeal that remains true to Bruna’s original voice. Personally, I’d start with this one and of course, Miffy.
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Mum IS the Word



Mum’s the Word
Timothy Knapman and Jamie Littler
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
A very energetic, playful pup decides to discover the one word that feels like all the things he most enjoys – a cuddle, a splash in a puddle, a warm goodnight kiss,


a favourite bedtime story, a tasty knickerbocker glory, the warm bright sun, a firework that lights up the night; all this and more. What could that word possibly be? “Mum,!” of course.
A rhyming text delivered through the small canine narrator, gorgeous watercolour and ink illustrations with nice touches of visual word play and a thoroughly endearing character (even to one who is not a dog lover).
Perfect for playful preschoolers to give to Mums on Mother’s Day and to share whatever the day.
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My Mummy is Magic
Dawn Richards and Jane Massey
Picture Corgi pbk
A very cute-looking toddler takes us through the day telling of all the magical mother and child shared moments, seemingly ordinary moments that make every day special when you have the world’s Number 1 Mum.
Jane Massey is a prolific illustrator who uses a wide variety of techniques and styles. All mums have magical powers when they open a book and share it with their children.


Such children will enjoy spotting the nursery characters when a swish of this storybook mummy’s magic wand brings to life the stories she shares.
For magical Mother’s Day moments and beyond.
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I Love Mum
Joanna Walsh and Judi Abbot
Simon and Schuster pbk
The small tigers in this story need no convincing that their mother is the world’s best Mum. She has the brightest, widest smile, is the best hugger and kisser better of hurt body parts and feelings and, she absolutely loves to play – at home,


in the park and at bath time. All the best Mums are children at heart just like tiger Mum.
With lots of opportunities for toddler interactions and Judi Abbot’s delightful, lively, mixed media illustrations, this is another love-packed book from the co-creators of The Perfect Hug.


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For more Mother’s Day suggestions see: Mother’s Day Medley (archived post):