ACHOO!

Achoo!
Simon Philip and Nathan Reed
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

As a hay fever sufferer I frequently find myself reaching for a tissue or if absolutely necessary, using my hand to catch my sneezes. However, Sid, the protagonist in this hilarious book does neither. This hitherto ordinary boy’s first sneeze causes an elephant to fly from his nose and even more crazy, the huge creature’s in a canoe. Yes really. Moreover said canoe can also accommodate Sid so on he hops, grabs the spare paddle and away they go. 

The trouble is that almost immediately he lets forth another ACHOO! thus precipitating the canoe over a waterfall towards a ravine. From there things just keep getting weirder and weirder as Sid comes upon a pirate ship. 

He assists the pirates in their treasure hunt and while so doing, with yet another sneeze he ejects a circus performer, followed shortly after as he participates in the performance, by a panda and her cubs. This story can’t possibly get any sillier you might be thinking but you’re wrong. 

And dare I say it, sneezes can be very catching …

With its brilliant finale, this is a super read aloud of the totally daft kind. maybe not totally daft actually, for the message about remembering to cover your nose when you feel a sneeze coming on is an important one, especially in these covid times. Listeners will love Simon’s rollicking rhyming narrative and relish Nathan’s increasingly high octane scenes, every one of which exudes (A)tissues full of humour. A rip-roaring read indeed.

Esme and the Sabre-Toothed Cub / Rita Wants a Dragon

Esme and the Sabre-Toothed Cub
Simon Philip and Magda Brol
Oxford Children’s Books

Could it be that Esme’s best friend Morris the mammoth has his tusks put slightly out of joint when a little sabre-toothed tiger cub appears in the village and charms all the cave kids by its actions. Despite the adults having shooed it away on several consecutive days, Esme asks the visitor she’s named Seb, “Would you like to be my pet?” However, Seb is far from impressed at receiving one order after another from the little stone age girl who eventually gets the message that the creature has no intention of becoming anyone’s pet.

Morris however, decides that perhaps friendship could be the way to go and of course, Esme is eager to join in their fun and games, albeit from some way off. Then trouble rears its ferocious head.

Can Esme save the day and learn a thing or two as well?

With certain similarities to our 21st century world, Simon Philip’s second story of bossy young Esme and her fellow troglodytes is another humorous read aloud, made even more so by Magda Brol’s highly exuberant scenes of this endearing prehistoric community.

Rita Wants a Dragon
Máire Zepf and Mr Ando
Graffeg

In the fifth of this series starring the small girl with a huge imagination, young Rita is having a bad day. Everything is going wrong and she imagines a large fiery dragon to represent her angry feelings. However, even dragons can’t remain in an angry state all the time – it’s hugely exhausting to roar

and rant, stomp and stamp and breathe fiery flames so it’s as well that they can take flight and find somewhere alone to do some slow breathing to help that rage dissipate and to talk calmly about what has gone wrong. Then anger diffused, it’s time for a snuggly cuddle with a loving grown-up, a mum for example.

With powerful images created by Mr Ando on every spread, Máire Zeph’s tale of Rita’s challenging behaviour offers parents and educators in early years settings an enjoyable starting point for discussions about feelings of anger and how to cope with them.

Esme’s Rock

Esme’s Rock
Simon Philip and Magda Brol
Oxford Children’s Books

Esme is a little cave girl with a lot of energy and curiosity and, a very powerful voice. That’s very useful if you want to ward off scary big creatures but definitely not so when it comes to keeping things secret. One thing she intends to do her utmost to keep her voice down about is the birthday surprise she’s organising for her best pal Morris the mammoth’s birthday.

Having wished him many happy returns, the transport arranged turns up to whisk Morris away for some pampering and she’s able to get on with carrying out the plans for the rest of the surprise. For this she has enlisted the help of her fellow cave people and they’re horrified at what the task entails in so short a time.

Come lunchtime it seems as though the painters are way behind schedule and Esme can’t keep her voice down any longer. What she yells echoes far and wide. Then, just when the painters are on the point of giving up their mammoth task, a party of strangers arrive armed with the necessary tools and it’s all systems go once more.

Finally it’s time for Esme to use that booming voice to summon Morris to his surprise celebration …
At last Esme’s voice comes into its own …

With Magda Brol’s exuberant illustrations, Simon Philip’s celebration of community spirit is a fun read aloud demonstrating that everybody has a special something to offer, albeit with a bit of channeling sometimes.

I Really Want to Shout!

I Really Want to Shout!
Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti
Templar Books

Author Simon Philip and illustrator Lucia Gaggiotti deliver with high energy and humour, a third in their series of life’s vital lessons.

The opening lines of the little girl narrator go like this: ‘Sometimes I find it really tough / to make sure I’m not in a huff / because there’s simply so much stuff / that makes me want to shout.’

Well, it is pretty infuriating to have to eat all your ‘green and yucky’ things before having your pudding, as well as when you have stacks of things you want to do, your parents insist it’s bedtime.

School’s no better – getting blamed for someone else’s meanness is assuredly, a letting off steam with an explosive scream occasion.

Thank goodness then for a best friend with whom to share all that angst, somebody to make you laugh and offer rage-coping strategies – even if the teacher’s less than impressed.

Thank goodness too for an understanding Dad who will comfort and put forward other shout-control suggestions – not a total panacea but assuredly they go a long way towards solving the anger conundrum.

We all get angry occasionally, perhaps more often than normal at the moment, but like the determined protagonist here, knowing what to do about it makes SO much difference.

Youngsters need books like this rhyming, high octane drama more than ever right now: ones that offer ways forward in a fun non-preachy style that you can share and enjoy over and over.

Be More Bernard

Be More Bernard
Simon Philip and Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster

Bernard is a bunny; he does bunny things like nose twitching and ear pricking and he digs lots of deep holes. In fact whatever his fellow bunnies do, Bernard does likewise.

In his dreams though things are rather different; he dreams of decidedly un-rabbity things. But how long can he keep up his pretence of being just like the other bunnies?

One day he decides to eschew the bunny poo baps his fellow rabbits are eating. ‘I can’t do this any more’ he decides.

Little by little Bernard starts to do his own thing, largely ignored by the others until that is, the day of the annual bunny ball when, shock horror, a divergent bunny rolls up!

Ignoring cries of “You can’t wear that!” and “We’re all the same!’ Bernard struts his stuff with joyful abandon, disco dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

Amid the cries of consternation, there’s one little bunny, Betsy, who loves his daring to be different and it isn’t long before Bernard isn’t the only risk taker on the dance floor.

Then comes the big reveal …

which all goes to show that the best possible choice is to be true to yourself whatever that may be.

Long live individuality and difference: that is what is so splendidly conveyed in Simon Philip’s cracking story narrated with such delicious humour by Bernard himself.

Kate Hindley brings out that humour with her splendiferous scenes of the protagonist’s transition from rule adherent to rule breaker, from follower to leader, from ordinary bunny to bunny extraordinaire. Make sure you peruse every spread carefully or you’ll miss the wealth of captivating detail in every one.

Blooming brilliant!

I Really Want the Cake

I Really Want the Cake
Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti
Templar Publishing

Now here’s a lip-smacker of a book guaranteed to make your salivary glands go into over-drive.
Who can resist that wonderful aroma of a fresh from the oven chocolate cake?
The little girl narrator of this story really has my sympathies when she follows the delicious smell emanating from the kitchen and discovers a totally yummy-looking confection just sitting there waiting to be tasted.

The trouble is though, her mum has left a warning note ‘YOU MUST NOT EAT THIS CAKE’. There’s no ambiguity about that, so the whole deliciously tempting chocolate cake must quite simply be forgotten.
Easier said than done though and the temptation proves too much for the young miss who, after holding back for a while, then finds herself drawn by an irresistible longing, back to object of her desire. What else could she do but sample the thing?
But then, the lick gives way to a bite, which turns into a slice and …

Oops! No cake!
Still a replacement shouldn’t be much of a challenge, surely?

Simon Philip’s tasty rhythmic, rhyming tale slips so smoothly from the tongue making it a great read aloud. Combined with Lucia Gaggiotti’s high energy, laugh-out-loud illustrations of chocolate cake and calamity, the whole thing becomes a scrumptious treat to serve up to young listeners. (I love the way the narrator takes on a variety of personas as she grapples with her conscience.)
If my experience is anything to go by extra servings will be immediately demanded.
There’s even a recipe for chocolate cake on the final page – mmmm!

I’ve signed the charter  

I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat

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I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat
Simon Philip and Ella Bailey
Simon & Schuster
The title of this book is a dilemma that I suspect faces a good many new moggy owners; every cat needs a name after all. Being allergic to cats, it’s not something I’ve had to worry about however though surely this vital task can’t be too problematic, or can it?
The little girl narrator of this tale opens her door one morning to discover an unexpected arrival of the feline kind. She decides to offer him something tasty to eat and when the creature takes up residence, a name becomes a necessity; so what about Kitty? Perfect, thinks out narrator but … it wasn’t.

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So what about Princess High and Mighty? The newcomer is certainly not easy to please; or maybe Pat, or Lorraine, Tricia or Tracey? All good names but err …

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She’s a boy!

So what about Mr Maestro?

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Oops! That could have been the one but suddenly the puss ups and goes as cats often do from what I know of them.
A search proves fruitless though there is a new kind of pet to take his place and this one doesn’t pose quite the same problem. And Steve’s certainly a whole lot of fun, even if he does attract a fair bit of attention – not always of the desirable kind though…

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Could there be  another creature waiting in the wings perhaps?
Simon Philip’s witty tale is just right for rising star, Ella Bailey’s illustrative talent to work on. Her scenes are chock full of delicious details and playful images of feline and human characters, not to mention the marvellous Steve.
This laugh-out-loud book is purr-fect for sharing. Cat lover I’m not, but I really loved this twisting, turning tale.

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You Must Bring a Hat

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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 …

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

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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,

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

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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.

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

Use your local hat bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

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