Can You Find 12 Busy Bees? / Ten Little Aliens

Can You Find 12 Busy Bees?
Jordon Winch and Patrick Shirvington
New Frontier Publishing

Who wouldn’t want to accept Jordon Winch’s invitation to enter the garden Patrick Shirvington so beautifully depicts on the opening spread, and join in the search for the abundance of wildlife residing therein. I for one couldn’t wait to go through the gate and seek out the lizard basking in the sun.

As we wander, lots of different birds introduce themselves starting with ‘2 patient powerful owl chicks’ nestling in a tall old tree …

as well as ‘3 crafty kookaburras, ‘6 merry magpies’ – these are poking around on the lawn, ‘7 flighty fairy-wrens, (in the bushes), ‘8 carefree cockatoos’ and ’10 rowdy rainbow lorikeets’ sipping nectar. Yes, some of these birds may be unfamiliar to young readers outside Australia but discovering new things is part of the pleasure.

Lolling around in the pond are ‘4 fat frogs’ to find; and there are two different kinds of butterflies making up the 5 fluttering through the flowers. We’re not told what kind they are, nor the identity of the 9 green grubs chomping through the foliage, though I hope few youngsters will fail to name the 11 lovely ladybirds’

or the most vital for us all, the ’12 buzzy bees’ of the title, as they forage for food in the flowers.

All these creatures, and readers too will endorse the final ‘We love our garden. We hope it will be there forever.’ And it definitely acts as reminder to make our own gardens wildlife friendly.

Patrick Shirvington’s love of the natural world shines through in his beautiful watercolour scenes that accompany the simple descriptive narrative.

Ten Little Aliens
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books

Aliens of all shapes and hues star in this counting down space adventure wherein the strange beings far from home search for a friendly place to stay.

Seemingly though, their numbers diminish as one receives a FIZZ! from a comet’s tail, another is SPLOOFed by Nova-berries, a Mega-Robot’s honking blasts the next, and a fiery crater fires out bubbling lava at a pink one.
Now we’re down to six and they’re caught in a sudden snowy blizzard. So it goes on with a SNIFF!, a BOING!,

a PARP!, a cry for HELP! as the sat-nav gives up the ghost.

Then, hurrah! Up steps the one remaining – a female alien – with a rescue operation to perform.

Will they ever find a hospitable planet on which to land their space ship? What do you think?

Rhyming fun Brownlow and Rickerty style always hits the spot with little ones and this story on an ever popular topic, with its sprinkling of alliteration is sure to please too.

Frankenbunny / Ten Little Superheroes

Frankenbunny
Jill Esbaum and Alice Brereton
Sterling

Youngest of three brothers, Spencer, knows monsters don’t exist until his siblings Leonard and Bertram start talking about the terrible Frankenbunny just to scare their little brother.
It’s relatively easy being brave during the daytime when mum or dad are on hand to reassure him that monsters aren’t real,

but come bedtime it’s much harder to ignore the graphic descriptions of “crusty fangs, ginormous jaws and flashing red eyes”.

Having made it through the night however, Spencer discovers something in his cupboard next morning that enables him to start planning his revenge on his brothers.

And indeed, it’s truly satisfying.
Light and dark are used to effect in this first person narrative that provides just the right frisson of fear without overdoing it; and shows youngsters it is possible to overcome your own fears in the end.

Ten Little Superheroes
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books

Riotous play superhero style begins when in mid flight, the Ten Little Super-Kids spy the League of Bad Guys plotting in their lair.

And then it’s a case of action stations, as they set about saving the city from the dastardly plotters.

Full of pows, vrooms, bishing, bashing, boshing, splats, zaps and more: can those Super-Kids overcome the very tricky Monstro’s Gang and thwart their villainous attack on Metro Hall? If so they’ll have to contend with cyclonic firing, sticky resin and Kraken’s flailing tentacles, not to mention a sonic boom and a hypnotic yogini.

I suggest a few practice run-throughs before reading this aloud to a group of small super-hero enthusiasts; it’s pretty fast paced and needs lots of ‘wellie’ to deliver the onomatopoeia-packed action.

However thereafter time will be needed to explore the kaleidoscopically coloured scenes of mischief and mayhem.

I’ve signed the charter  

Dinosaurs, Numbers and a Picnic

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Ten Little Dinosaurs
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
Whether or not there were snails, frogs, bats, spiders, crayfish, crabs, hedgehogs, bees and the like in the time dinosaurs roamed the earth matters not: Simon Rickerty has chosen to scatter them liberally throughout the landscapes of this rhyming romp. Essentially it’s a countdown from when there are ‘Ten little dinosaurs, hatching from their eggs,/Blinking in the sunshine, stretching out their legs.’ These ten newly hatched creatures decide to take advantage of the fact their mother is fast asleep and off they go, in single file, to explore the wide world. Did I say ten? Stomp! That was Diplodocus stepping on one of their number. And so the adventure continues as they take in the surrounding aromas – Slurrrp!; – another gone; peep into a cavern, wander across the volcanic plains, take a dip in the bubbling springs, do a bit of scrumping ,

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polish up their poo-avoiding plodding, try their hand or rather paws, at mountain climbing –  and then they’re down to just one.

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Seemingly he’s about to meet his doom too. But…
PHEW! It’s neither a raptor, nor a T-Rex, not even a monster. No! It’s their very own mother who’s come in search of her missing offspring and hip-hooray!!, she now has them all together once more safe and sound within her sight – more or less anyway.

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Another winning Brownlow/Rickerty combo: a rollicking-good read, an ever-popular topic and an enjoyable countdown littered with tiny creatures to spot and count in the vividly coloured, comical scenes A certain winner for early years listeners (and counters).

For younger mathematicians is:

 

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Lulu Loves Numbers
Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is a small board book that features Lulu who, in this story, is with her mum visiting a farm. There they encounter lots of animals and Lulu learns to count from one all the way to …

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With doors to open or a flap to lift on every spread, this is an enjoyable interactive experience for the very youngest who can join in with the animal noises and practice their counting skills along with Lulu in this delightful little book.

Not a counting book as such but packed full of opportunities for mathematical exploration is

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Teddy Picnic
Georgie Birkett
Andersen Press
The toys from Teddy Bedtime return for a picnic expedition and we join them as they make their final preparations before setting off. They walk and skip into the woods where they have fun bubble blowing, hiding and dancing

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before settling down on their rug for some tasty lunch
Then, tummies full, the friends play while hungry birds make the most of the remains of the lunch; but all that rushing around is tiring so it’s a train ride home. Tired but happy the ‘teddies’ settle down for a cosy story-time session on the sofa before bed.

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With its gentle rhyming text, super-cute characters, and fun-filled scenes to focus on, this is ideal for sharing with the very young

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Princesses and a Postman

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Ten Little Princesses
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
Ten little princesses trot past the castle but whither are they bound on their special day? Why, to the ball of course: but will they arrive safely and on time? When one pricks her finger, another bites into a poisoned apple and a third is charmed by a handsome skateboarding prince, we begin to wonder whether any of these damsels will reach their destination. There are piggies and a big bad wolf,

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a frog, a toothy troll

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and much more in this action-packed, bouncy, rhyming romp of a countdown that really invites joining in.
What a wealth of detail there is to talk about, and an abundance of counting opportunities, in the various comical scenes rendered in dazzling colours by Rickerty, who made me chuckle several times at every turn of the page. Brilliant fun (even better than Ten Little Pirates) by a pair that work so well together.
Great fun too is:

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Digby Dog Delivers
Tor Freeman
Macmillan Children’s Books
Digby Dog is a postman and he spends his time delivering the town folks’ mail on his trusty scooter. On this particular day he has all manner of parcels to take to Fred Fox, Ginger Guinea Pig, Annie Ape,

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Professor Perry Pig and Sally Sheep. Those duly delivered, there is just one parcel remaining in his cart and it’s a very special one for a very special person.; but whose house is he heading to? His very own and just in time for a fifth birthday party and a share in Petal Puppy’s birthday tea.
There is so much to look at and share in the wonderfully humorous, action-packed pictures, not only the double spreads of the places Digby delivers to, but also the smaller scenes on his route. In one of the latter we see such things as three apple cores lined up beside a rubbish sack and a rabbit balancing seven scoops of ice-cream on a single cone.

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Find and buy from your local bookshop:

http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Cuddles, Crime, Cavemen and a Question

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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.

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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?

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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.
Buy from Amazon

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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,

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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.

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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.
Buy from Amazon

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Ug-A-Lug
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.

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‘ 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.

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

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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.
In a word SUPERDUPERUG-A-LUG-A-LOVED-IT!
Buy from Amazon

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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.

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But whose egg is it?

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

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

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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.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookshop: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Picture Book Allsorts

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Wanda and the Alien to the Rescue
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Rabbit Wanda and her alien friend discover a small, lost creature in the woods one day. After an abortive search for his mummy, they take him home, wash him, feed him and eventually succeed in getting him to bed. Next morning after breakfasting on a custard concoction, the little creature is starting to make more mischief when his mummy arrives on the scene.

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Reunited again, parent and child depart leaving the friends to relax together peacefully at home. O- oh! Who is that knocking on their door? …
Fans of Wanda and her Alien pal will be delighted to know that they are soon to star in a TV series; meanwhile, they can enjoy this, their third, slightly crazy, adventure in book form with its sparkling cover and gentle humour. Just right for an early years story time.
In my experience these stories spark off children’s own creative ideas in the way of picture and model making and message writing. Perhaps this one might result in some music making and you might want to have a few packets of custard powder and bowls ready after sharing the story.
Buy from Amazon

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Meet the Parents
Peter Bently and Sarah Ogilvie
Simon and Schuster pbk
Parents are not there merely to boss their offspring about: they have many much more useful roles too. They make handy mending machines, large handwarmers, building foundations, horses and donkeys. They are great targets for hoses and ketchup, toy hunters, twirlers, tree trunks and much more.

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They are great muddle and mess sorters, have wonderful memories, and are super storytellers, apologisers and comforters. Watch out though, their fingers just love to … TICKLE!
Lively, bright, jocund elaborations of Bently’s engaging rhyming text,
Sara Ogilvie’s hilarious portrayals of family life cannot fail to delight both youngsters and their parents.
Buy from Amazon

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Crayon
Simon Rickerty
Simon and Schuster pbk
In Simon Rickery’s latest witty offering he entertains young (and not so young) readers with some crazy crayons capers. Two blobby characters, a red one with a blue crayon and a blue one with a red crayon wield their implements in turn, keeping to their own territories. But then Red crosses the gully with his mark making. This transgression leads to a verbal battle and worse. The friends cross crayons and before long Red’s blue is snapped in two. Blue makes a peace offering in the form of his red crayon but Red misuses it and turns his friend purple. Enter a purple blobby character. Purple wields the power with purple, yellow, pink, orange, brown and green crayons which, leaving Red all alone, he and Blue use to co-create building blocks. Soon all that’s missing is a roof and what colour is needed for that?

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Time for a friendship to be repaired …
With minimal text and simple forms, Rickerty has fashioned a perfect parable of how a childish dispute develops, flares up and is resolved.
Buy from Amazon

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I totally don’t want to play
Ann Bonwill and Simon Rickerty
Oxford University Press
The bird/hippo friendship of Bella and Hugo is threatened by a third party. Hugo is not happy; his invitation to go skating has been turned down by his best pal, Bella. Bella has found a new companion, Cressida and is off to the playground with her instead. Bella grudgingly invites Hugo to tag along but as he quickly finds out, the real fun does not appear to include him.

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Before long though, it’s Bella’s turn to feel left out. “I’m going home,” she announces huffily. Just in time, Cressida suggests a game that is absolutely perfect for three friends together.
Ann Bonwill’s manner of telling (she uses dialogue throughout) works particularly well for this, the third Hugo and Bella story. Simon Rickerty’s delightful illustrations, executed with simple shapes, black blotchy outlines and bright dayglo colours bring occasional hilarity to the scenes; I particularly like the images of the diminutive Bella endeavouring to push Cressida on the swing. Triangular friendships are often tricky but this author/artist partnership has created a story which demonstrates that with a bit of give and take, it can work.
Buy from Amazon

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Dinosaur Rescue!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow
Prepare yourself for some noisy story sessions with the latest adventure of Penny Dale’s dinosaur troop. Here , they race to the rescue in aid of a large truck stuck across a railway crossing. As the train dashes down the line, along they come in fire engine, ambulance, police car, helicopter and on foot making a glorious cacophony. Then Screech! Screech! Screech! The steam train grinds to a halt just in time and it’s rescue dinosaur teamwork in action to ensure the safety of everything and everyone.

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With crashed truck hitched to Dinotow, team members drive back to base ready for some thoroughly deserved rest and play, and of course, a hearty meal.
Once again, Penny Dale provides a winning formula – dinosaurs and large vehicles this time. A perfect opportunity for chuffing, calling, Nee Naa-ing wooing, choppa chopping, brake screeching and more.
This one would be brilliant to act out either with small world dinosaurs and vehicles or with children themselves, some acting as dinosaurs, others a chuffing train, rushing rescue trucks, racing police car, hovering, swooping helicopter or lifting, brrming tow truck.. And, as well as vocal accompaniment, audiences could suggest percussion instruments or other items to create the various sounds.
If all that isn’t enough, or you just want to quieten things down a little, then turn to the end papers for some visual delight: at the front is the dinosaur rescue team at the ready, wonderfully portrayed in bright colours and at the back are the rescue vehicles.
The text bursts with energy, not to mention onomatopoeia. Yes we adults might argue with the actions of the dinosaurs staying right by their crashed truck as the train charges ever closer, but I’m sure it will be another resounding hit with its target audience of under fives.
Buy from Amazon

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Who’s in the Tree that Shouldn’t Be?
Craig Shuttlewood
Templar Publishing
To discover the answer to the title question follow the instruction on the first page and then lift the flap opposite to reveal a perplexed-looking penguin on a branch. In the tree too are more animals that also have something so say and add to the rhyme.
Readers can find the identity of a whole host of other out-of-place creatures – in the long grass, in the air, in the desert, in the ocean, in the ice and snow, in space even;

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then, turn to the final spread and see who is out of place there.
Quirky creatures, their somewhat offbeat comments and mixed media, slightly crazy illustrations by artist Craig Shuttlewood are the key ingredients of this interactive book. It’s a quality production too.
Buy from Amazon

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What are you playing at?
Marie-Sabine Roger and Anne Sol
Alanna Books
I love the provocative style of this picture book that challenges gender stereotypes and powerfully advocates a ‘You can be anything/do anything’ mode of thinking and being. The use of photographs of children, for example a girl engaged in domestic play, opposite such thought-provoking assertions as ‘boys don’t play kitchens’ written large on a page that folds out to reveal a male chef, acts as a superb counter to the gender biased statements. Other flaps reveal men dancing, feeding a baby, skipping and crying and women playing soccer,

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driving cars, working as boat builders and flying rockets.
Share this with a group of infants; it will assuredly get them thinking and arguing.
Buy from Amazon
Find and buy from your local bookseller: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Finally, here is a handful of books I’ve previously reviewed which are now out in paperback:

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How amazing that Mike Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s brilliant We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Walker Books) is celebrating its 25th anniversary – congratulations!
Assuredly it’s a book that should be in every young child’s library. How about buying a copy to give on International Book Giving Day which is coming up soon.

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