Superkitty

Superkitty
Hannah Whitty and Paula Bowles
Simon & Schuster

There’s a new superhero on the block – or rather as Hannah Whitty’s story opens – a would-be one. It’s the fluffy feline narrator of the story and she works at the Sensational Superhero Agency located in Big City.

Her chief role however seems to be office stooge in contrast to Cheetah, Wildebeest, Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Bear. These guys get all the crook-chasing, crime-busting fun while kitty is left behind to answer the phones.

So, when a call comes in from Dr Fossil reporting the theft of a precious bone from her most recent dinosaur discovery, kitty is determined to get in on the act of the most ‘dastardly and diabolical crime EVER’. Grabbing the appropriate gear. She quits the office and despite being told to return to her post by the six scoundrel catchers, she manages to join the action and tails the Sensational Superheroes through the streets as one by one,

they stop off to attend to their own personal whims and fancies.

Eventually the crew reach Sky Tower where it’s kitty’s turn to shine. Scaling up the side of the building she finds herself face to face with the dastardly dog burglar, Nefarious Norman and we all know what dogs love best …

Can Kitty summon up sufficient bravado, face off the thief and save the bone from the stinky breathed canine or is she destined to become a dog’s breakfast instead?

Let’s leave her there and merely add that there’s one mightily happy feline and an enormously satisfied agency customer at the conclusion to this rip-roaring saga. Never let it be said that it’s always the guys who wear the pants (and capes and masks) hereafter.

Fast-moving, funny and illustrated with aplomb by Paula Bowles, this will hold the attention of young listeners throughout; and if my experience is anything to go by, action replays will be the order of the day.

The Sea Saw

 

The Sea Saw
Tom Percival
Simon & Schuster

Tom Percival always hits the sweet spot with his picture books and with this one he’s truly aced it – again.

When Sofia, on a visit to the seaside with her dad, loses her beloved teddy bear she’s totally distraught. The old, tatty object has been passed from her grandfather to her mother (whom one presumes is dead) and then to little Sofia and she’d thought of it more as a friend than a soft toy. In their dash out of the rainstorm said bear falls from an open bag and is left alone on the beach, unseen except by the Sea.

The Sea takes on the role of guardian of the bear, and the search for Sofia begins.

Meanwhile at home, Sofia’s father makes exhaustive enquiries and the two of them return to the beach but all to no avail; all that remains of Sofia’s precious bear apart from memories, is his blue scarf from which she snips a tiny piece to keep in her locket.

Back with the Sea, the hunt continues in earnest with Bear being borne through the water with the aid of marine creatures, surviving hazardous conditions and enjoying more restful periods too. All this takes years and eventually the bear is carried along rivers and a stream,

where it’s spied floating along by a young girl; a young girl who turns out to be Sofia’s granddaughter.

Finally a joyful reunion takes place and as Tom tells us almost at the close, ‘nothing is ever truly lost if you keep it in your heart.’

I doubt many readers will be able to finish this book without having tears in their eyes, a lump in their throat and a happy smile; it’s so moving and SO beautifully constructed. What a wonderful, heart-warming way to think about loss while never completely losing sight of the possibility of reunion.

Such sublime illustrations; every one is to linger over and return to; some send shivers down your spine. Absolutely awesome: another must have book from local-to-me, author/artist, Tom.

What Do They Do With All That Poo?

What Do They Do With All That Poo?
Jane Kurtz and Allison Black
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Of zoo books there’s an abundance, but when it comes to talking about the animals’ poo and what happens to it after passing out of the animals, is another matter. A faecal matter one might say and the author Jane Kurtz knows exactly how to grab the attention of young listeners even before the text begins with poo-filled endpapers – don’t miss those.Then, from the start (with a clever page turn) ‘At zoo after zoo / the animals chew. / And then … // they poo!” she holds that attention throughout.

Thereafter she digs into the diverse nature of droppings using rhyming couplets:‘A hippo sprays a shower / with its flipping, flapping tail. // To weigh a day of elephant’s poo, / you need a sturdy scale.’

Beneath each illustration in smaller print come further facts concerning the animal’s business: ‘Hippos use dung to mark their territories and warn off predators. They shoot their dung out while flapping their tails to spray it around.’ ‘Rhinos can communicate / through piles and piles of scat. // A lion sometimes buries poo – / like any other cat.’
‘Each rhino’s poo has its own unique smell.’ ‘Rhinos smell dung to gather information about each other.’

Cats big and little often bury their poo so it won’t be detected by enemies. But sometimes lions and tigers leave poo unburied as a warning that this is their territory.’

In her playful, scatological scenes Allison Black succeeds in giving each animal a personality with its distinctive shape and wide-open eyes; I love the hippo’s cheeky grin, the snake’s sneaky smile and the wombat’s look of seeming wonder at the shape of its turds.

Having discussed a dozen zoo inmates, the author turns her attention to vast quantities of poo deposited each day (possibly as much as 2,270 kg). Much is taken away in lorries to landfills while some goes to scientists and vets for study and gardeners use some for compost:

did you know carnivore poo can be spread around gardens to prevent deer eating the plants and trees?

In addition to concluding the book with a huge grin on their faces, (apart from the squeamish few who might be feeling somewhat nauseous) little ones will end up having ingested a considerable amount of information to inwardly digest, not the least being that elephant poo can be made into attractive paper products – hmm!

Educative and enormous fun; if used in a school context, children might wish to find out what their nearest zoo does about poo.

The Light in the Night / The World Book Day Monster

The Light in the Night
Marie Voight
Simon & Schuster

Young Betty absolutely loves the night time for it brings with it the most amazing stories, one of which features Cosmo.
Cosmo is a bear that is terrified of the dark and just when Betty is wishing that she could tell him that he has no need to fear it, POP! There he is.
Together they set off, hand in hand, on a journey of discovery. Led by a firefly they walk into the woods where they find a cave
Betty reassures her friend and they follow the firefly inside towards an inky lake whereon a rowing boat awaits to take them further.
The cave grows ever darker as they go deeper within until they come upon a sign.

Overcoming her own initial fear, Betty does as the sign says. An amazing sight meets their eyes and it’s anything but scary.
Once back outside, it’s Betty’s turn to feel anxious; she makes a confession …

With roles reversed, Cosmo now does the reassuring until the two reach Betty’s house safely once more.
Back indoors over hot chocolate (what else) the two talk of their journey until it’s time for Cosmo to leave.

Betty gives him her lantern and a special message.

In the morning she wonders if it had all been a dream: what do you think? You’ll need a copy of this magical book to find out.

Rising star, Marie Voight’s illustrations are adorable and her two characters totally endearing making this a thoroughly reassuring, warm-hearted bedtime story for you and your little ones as well as a lovely one to share in an early years setting.

The World Book Day Monster
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Ada Grey
Egmont

World Book Day is fast approaching, her school is celebrating but Anna has a dilemma. What should she dress up as?

Dad’s suggestion that they pay a visit to the bookshop proves fruitful and thanks to a helpful suggestion from the bookseller, Anna goes home fired with enthusiasm, carrying a book.

After multiple reads she enlists parental help to make her costume and next day she excitedly rushes off to school to show her friends.

Their response however isn’t particularly positive; they all ask, Anna, what are you?” over and over throughout the day.

Happily her head teacher’s reaction is very different; it was a favourite of hers when she was a child and she’s eager to share the book Anna is clutching with the class.

A magical story time ensues that is much appreciated by all her classmates, which leaves Anna thoroughly satisfied, and so she should be as she demonstrates the power of story to thrill and enchant.

Adam and Charlotte’s rhyming text coupled with Ada’s spirited scenes make for a fun book to share around World Book Day or at any time one wants to attest to the power of a story and the importance of the imagination.

Dave The Lonely Monster

Dave the Lonely Monster
Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Dave lives all alone in a retirement cave; his only companion is his guitar.

Back in the day – the bad old days to be precise – Dave had been a huge pest rampaging and roaring wherever he went.

Until that is, the townsfolk, tired of his mess making, exiled him to Echo Rock where he spends the next sixty years, just him, his knitting, the odd poetry book and his old instrument upon which he strummed the night away.
By day the local knights would taunt him and try to engage him in combat, but of fighting Dave would have no part.

One day his slumbers are disturbed, first by a flying cabbage that hits his nose, then a beetroot biffs him in the eye and an aubergine whizzes past.
Out from behind a bush emerges a tiny knight wielding a carrot. “Prepare to meet your doom!” he cries.

Somewhat nonplussed, Dave challenges this lad who calls him a fiendish monster, pointing out that proper knights do not speak so, and that monstrous beasts, like others, also have feelings.
Realising the error of his ways, Percy apologies, a pledge is taken and a firm friendship forged.
The two have the time of their lives

while back in town, on account of the lack of exciting action, boredom and grumpiness have set in. Monster-bashing is what they need, the townsfolk decide.

Can young Percy persuade them otherwise, armed as they are with fistfuls of mouldy fruit and veg.?
Surely there must be a better way to liven things up and bring fun back for those would-be assailants of Dave’s. He certainly thinks so …

Rollicking rhyme that beats out a heart-warming tale of music and friendship – that’s Anna Kemp’s – and delicious olde-worlde scenes of bygone times that might have been but never were, on account of the crazy mix of knights of yore, Dave’s 60s style bass guitar, mini-skirts and dance moves, not to mention a hells angels wooden Harley style bike complete with side car (those are all part and parcel the super scenes created by Sara Ogilvie)  – combine to make a super read-aloud romp with an important message.

Out with rebel-rousing and war; long live love and peace.

This book will have to be one of my ‘secret story-teller’ choices for the autumn term.

Tom’s Magnificent Machines

Tom’s Magnificent Machines
Linda Sarah and Ben Mantle
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

This is a totally awesome picture book that celebrates the very special relationship between young Tom and his father. It also celebrates their inventiveness and resilience in the face of difficulties.

We first meet the two as they zip around their lakeside home with dad pulling his son in a small, simple vehicle they’ve fashioned from bits and pieces.

Gradually however their inventiveness escalates and their home becomes chock full of weird and wonderful whizzy, whirry, hovering machines: life is peachy.

Then unexpectedly, Dad loses his job and with it, so Tom thinks, his smile and his propensity for inventiveness.
Gloom descends and the old machines lie forgotten. Then comes even worse news: they can’t afford to keep their home. Tom is devastated. Taking his trolley-bike he sets off to do some thinking.

Suddenly he has an enormous, hope-filled idea. Back home Dad appears relatively uninterested but finally Tom gets his message across and Dad smiles for the first time in many days.

A great deal of creating, testing, fixing and more ensue until beyond anything anyone could have imagined, they’re ready to open ‘The Museum of Vehicles Made From Things Not Usually Used For Making Vehicles.’
Visitors pour in, and wonder and laughter fill their establishment. Life is once again peachy as Dad says they can stay in their home.

Life does sometimes have a way of throwing disasters in the way of some unlucky people, and so it is for Tom and his Dad.
One night a whirlwind destroys their dream house, scattering its contents and leaving just rubble.

Despite his ‘badly-hidden sad’ Dad however mentions rebuilding;

Tom has other ideas. Off he goes once again on his bike; and returns with a brilliant new suggestion. It’s pure genius and one that will work no matter what the elements throw their way.

Linda Sarah has such an amazing way with words; her story is sheer delight to read aloud: coupled with Ben Mantle’s stupendous scenes of the highs and lows of life as shared by Tom and his dad, the result is a terrific book to share, and share and …

Ballet Bunnies / We Are Family

Ballet Bunnies
Lucy Freegard
Pavilion Children’s Books

Young Betty bunny aspires to be a ballerina but she’s only ever performed for her baby sister Bluebell.

At home Betty dances at every opportunity, in every room, but when it comes to dance class it’s not the same, especially with the end of term show fast approaching. Unlike her fellow dance students Betty feels clumsy and she can’t remember the right steps.
She does however, put her own interpretation on those moves and fortunately her teacher sees the best in every one of his students, providing fun rehearsals and a part for them all.

Betty works on losing her nerves but what will happen come the big day when among the audience will be her biggest fan, Bluebell?

Lucy Freegard’s cute characters and ballet scenes executed in pen and watercolour are sure to appeal particularly to budding dancers of the human kind, while her story of doing one’s best, over-coming your fears and finding confidence should resonate with all.

We Are Family
Claire Freedman and Judi Abbot
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

A celebration of sibling love is exemplified by an array of endearing young animals small and not so small.
Be they lively lion cubs, diving ducklings, mischievous monkeys, milkshake slurping polar bears, fighting foxes, cake consuming kitties or frolicsome frogs,

brothers and sisters can be enormously irritating at times, but no matter what, even the trickiest of tasks become less bothersome with a sibling to assist.

Claire Freedman’s fluently flowing rhyming text combined with Judi Abbot’s captivating scenes of animal activities will enchant toddlers (with or without siblings) as well as their parents and carers.
We all love a little bit of mischief and there’s plenty of that herein.