Queen of the Classroom

Queen of the Classroom
Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Scallywag Press

In a similar manner to their King of the Classroom author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton follow a young child through the first day of school. Now though it’s an endearing little girl, MJ and for sure, thanks to her mum placing a crown on MJ’s head, and priming her on the appropriate behaviour of a classroom queen, as well as her father’s supportive hand holding all the way to the school door, together with his farewell hug, she’s ready to face the world of school.
Her teacher too is warm and friendly, initiating each newcomer into classroom life and allocating them a role apiece. That given to MJ ensures that she fulfils one of those queenly duties her mother spoke of. An opportunity to demonstrate another – “Queens are caring and kind” – is presented by Rayna who is sitting beside MJ, looking very miserable and saying that she wants to go home.

Straightway MJ takes Rayna’s hands and gives them a friendly, empathetic squeeze – helping hands indeed. Chances to show helpfulness crop up several times during the day and always MJ steps up to the royal mark.

It’s a tired but very happy MJ and her fellow classmates who finish their perfect first day with some ‘wind-down” music that Miss Lovingood plays on her stereo before home-time. However, MJ’s true queenliness continues at home when she presents little brother Samson with the picture of him she created in the school art room,

as well as at bedtime when she recounts her day to Mama.

In his entertaining, wonderfully heartwarming prose, Derrick Barnes creates a delightful, can-do protagonist with nurturing parents (if only every child had the same). His text is perfectly complemented by Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s vivid, energetic, gently humorous illustrations of one stylish child and the diverse supporting cast.

A book that’s empowering and full of softly spoken lessons for all young children whether or not they are experiencing their first day at school.

I Don’t Want to go to School / Big

I Don’t Want to go to School
Lula Bell and Brian Fitzgerald
Little Tiger

Both Mouse (teacher) and Dinosaur are suffering from first day nerves as they reluctantly get up, dress and are unable to face their respective breakfasts.

Concerns about being liked are voiced and both characters are feeling decidedly wibbly-wobbly.

School looks such a scary place full of seemingly intimidating children – until they encounter one another. Then it becomes a case of being brave together … and going on to have an absolutely terrific time. Yipee! school’s great

and tomorrow’s another day …

With a simple text that gets to the heart of those starting school wobbles and Brian Fitzgerald’s bright, humorous illustrations that capture so well the feelings of Mouse and Dinosaur, this is a definite winner and just right for youngsters starting school next term who will be amused to see that sometimes teachers have those apprehensive feelings too.

Big
Sav Akyüz
Oxford Children’s Books

Watching his big brother having the kind of fun that older brothers enjoy makes the small boy protagonist wish that he too could be big.

All of a sudden his wish is granted and off he goes on an awesome romp with the city as his adventure playground.

The trouble is he just keeps on increasing in size until he declares “Oh … no … I’m TOO big!’
Perhaps after all it’s better to be content with what you are and to use your imagination and say ‘what if …’.

With minimal words and arresting illustrations, debuting as author-illustrator Sav Akyüz has created a fun story that will resonate with lots of small brothers and sisters who watch their older siblings doing exciting things and think, ‘I wish … ‘

Hello Friend! / Bunny Braves the Day

Hello Friend!
Rebecca Cobb
Macmillan Children’s Books

It’s the mismatch between what is said by the small girl narrator and what is shown in Rebecca Cobb’s enchanting, warm illustrations that make this book such a winner.

From the start the girl enthusiastically shares everything during playtime both indoors and out, at lunchtime, during quiet times and noisy ones.

What is evident though is that the boy on whom she focuses all this sharing attention is going to take much longer to feel ready to share in the well-intentioned advances of the little girl.
However, a friendship does develop …

and it’s one where both parties are equally enthusiastic about their togetherness.

This is a gorgeous story to share with youngsters especially those starting school; it offers plenty to reflect on and talk about, both at home and in the classroom.

Bunny Braves the Day
Suzanne Bloom
Boyds Mills Press

It’s Bunny’s first day of school but he wants nothing of it: he doesn’t know anybody, supposes nobody likes him; his socks are too short, his shorts too long and he can’t tie his shoes. Oh woe!

Big sister cajoles him with plenty of empathy and ideas,

but with a hurting tummy, it’s decided … ‘I’d better not go … Because I don’t even know how to read!’

After more loving comments, ‘Sometimes you just feel like crying before you feel like trying. You’ll find a friend. Not all shoes use laces. And teachers love to teach reading…’ and listing things little bro. CAN do, he’s almost ready to surrender but not before one last try, ‘Mom will miss me.’ (Said parent has uttered not a word in all this, though she does take a photo).

Finally, it’s time to face up to the inevitable and once more it’s down to big sis. to deliver the final upbeat reassurance at the classroom entrance.

The entire text takes the form of the dialogue between the bunny siblings –blue for the new boy and red for older sister; while Suzanne Bloom’s watercolour and pencil illustrations highlight the feelings of the two characters beautifully.

Just right to share with little ones, especially in families where there’s likely to be starting school nerves; or with children in a nursery setting.

Lulu’s First Day / Butterflies on the First Day of School

Lulu’s First Day
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Max

Lulu is starting pre-school and she’s already been well prepared. There have been lots of story time sessions at the library, a visit to the school, and special gifts from Nana and Tayo that she’ll use regularly for school.

She’s even chosen her clothes for the next day and packed extras in her new bag – just in case.

The big day dawns, everybody is up early and with a pause for a quick photo, off she goes with her mum.

There’s a warm welcome from her teacher and Lulu is soon enjoying all that nursery has to offer.

Almost before you can say, ‘circle time’, there she is on the carpet with all her friends and the grown-ups are waiting outside eager to hear of those new experiences.

Yes, its’ been a tiring day, but Lulu can’t wait for tomorrow …

With all the reassurance that little ones need, Anna McQuinn and Ros. Beardshaw present the pitch perfect book for those who, like Lulu, are about to take those next steps into pre-school.

Butterflies on the First Day of School
Annie Silvestro and Dream Chen
Sterling Children’s Books

An enchanting fanciful take on a well-known figure of speech is presented in this story of first day nerves.

Rosie has been eagerly anticipating starting school for a whole month but on the night before her big day, doubts creep in and next morning she announces that she doesn’t feel well.

Her mum tells her it’s just butterflies in her tummy and when she sits chatting rather nervously on the school bus to another new girl, butterflies (seen only by Rosie) flutter from her mouth. Now she understands her mum’s puzzling comment.

More butterflies are released, also seen only by Rosie, every time she opens her mouth in the classroom during that first session,

until by playtime her tummy is less rumbly and she can barely feel any more butterflies.

Out go the children to play, Rosie feeling pretty confident now. Then she notices another little girl standing alone under a tree, hands on her tummy. Rosie introduces herself and when the forlorn-looking girl speaks, a cloud of butterflies come fluttering from her mouth.

With its bold bright butterfly images this is a lovely warm story that will reassure little ones who like Rosie are starting school imminently, along with adults who may well share that first day feeling.

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!
Mo Willems
Walker Books

At last the time has come; our favourite picture book Pigeon is to start school, despite the fact that he’s adamant that he’s not going. “I already know EVERYTHING!” he insists immediately shooting himself in the foot by inviting readers to ‘… ask me a question. Any question!’

From there however he starts revealing his real anxieties: he’s not good first thing in the morning; supposing he doesn’t like it and worse – supposing the teacher doesn’t like pigeons. One by one these worries emerge from beneath that feathery bluster. There’s sooooooooooo much stuff to learn – too much and his head and body might part company.

We’re treated to an eight-part tirade of terrifying possibilities – ‘Will FINGER PAINT stick to my feathers? … What’s up with those heavy BACKPACKS? I’m a fragile bird.’ By now our little Pigeon is a jittering wreck.

But then, after a further rant …

comes a light bulb moment … followed by the very best of all Pigeon possibilities that answers his question, ‘Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!”

It’s a truly wonderful finale, perfectly delivered Mo Willems style; and I’m sure all the Pigeon fans out there will be on the edges of their seats as they anticipate what is about to show up next – whey hey! …

Presented almost entirely through speech bubbles, Pigeon’s monologue is simply brilliant and the way in which Willems zooms in and out on his protagonist both orchestrates the action and highlights the emotional turmoil.

I’ve totally loved all of the Pigeon books but perhaps this is my favourite so far.

Share with those about to start school as well as those already experienced in the mysteries of the classroom.

The Colour Monster Goes to School / Beautiful Bananas

The Colour Monster Goes to School
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing

It’s the day Colour Monster starts school and he’s rather confused about what to expect as he anticipates what this new place might be like.

His friend Nuna is there to reassure him about what to put in his bag as well as to introduce him to his teacher and new classmates and to accompany him as he discovers the activities on offer that day.

First comes Nuna’s favourite, music, in which Colour Monster is let’s say, an enthusiastic participant though he seems even more enthusiastic about stories …

There are lessons to learn about turn taking, appropriate use of the toilet facilities

and how to eat lunch.
The afternoon comprises some gymnastics – with an additional piece of equipment; followed by a creative session with Colour Monster as the subject.

Come home time, it’s clear that the newbie has had a fun-filled day; but poor Nuna is completely worn out.

If you’ve not come across the Colour Monster in his previous escapades, then this is a great place to start especially if you have little ones starting school or nursery next term.

With her wonderful mixed media illustrations, Anna Llenas’ funny story of the risk-taking protagonist is a delight, reassuring with plenty to giggle over, as the big day draws close.

Beautiful Bananas
Elizabeth Laird and Liz Pichon
Oxford University Press

There are gentle echoes of Handa’s Surprise in this African setting tale of Beatrice, who sets out through the jungle with a bunch of beautiful bananas for her granddad.

That’s her intention, but along the way a giraffe flicks his tail accidentally displacing the bananas and sending them into a stream.

This sets off a concatenation of animal-related mishaps involving a swarm of bees, then some mischievous monkeys,

a lion, a parrot and finally an elephant each of which apologises and provides a replacement gift, with the story coming full circle with the elephant’s offering. It’s a delighted Beatrice who then heads to her Grandad’s home, assuring herself that after all, “Bananas are best.”

There’s plenty to spot in Liz Pichon’s vibrant scenes, not least the tiny jungle creatures

and the pairs of eyes peeping out from among the foliage as youngsters listen to Elizabeth Laird’s amusing story that is still a winner with me 15 years after its first publication.

Pirates Don’t Go To School!

Pirates Don’t Go To School!
Alan MacDonald and Magda Brol
Little Tiger

There seems to be no limit to the stream of piratical picture books set on the high seas; but a young pirate enrolling in a primary school, now that’s something rather different.

It is though what young Jake, fed up with ‘mopping parrot poop’ from the deck of the Salty Prawn, eventually persuades his Ma and Pa to allow him to do.

On arrival however, he does have some first day jitters.

And when he gets inside the classroom and removes his hat, both teacher and children – not to mention Jake himself – are in for something of a surprise.

His stowaway parrot, Poll, is in playful mood and leads Jake, children and teachers a merry dance

until the young pirate suddenly has an idea.

His action succeeds in calming down the lively bird, much to everyone’s relief, leaving Jake anticipating being sent home in disgrace.

Not so! Miss Cherry is an accommodating teacher and the lad happily spends his first day with the others until it’s time for his family to meet him.

That evening he regales them with the story of his first day at school; but will they allow him to return next morning? You bet; can Miss Cherry cope though?

Dirty Bertie author, Alan Macdonald has struck gold with this unlikely starting school tale. It’s perfect for young listeners soon to start school themselves, but equally will delight anyone partial to funny stories. This one’s made all the funnier thanks to Magda Brol’s spirited scenes of Jake, his family and his new friends, whether at sea or on land.

Why Do I Poo? / Freddie the Fox Feels Frightened

Thanks to Booklife Publishing for sending these: it’s always good to discover a new publisher.

Why Do I Poo?
Kirsty Holmes
Booklife Publishing

Bodily functions and in particular, poo, seem to hold an endless fascination for young children; mere mention of the word often elicits giggles among those in a reception class or nursery group; and with a cover like the one on this book, I’m sure it will arouse interest straight away.

Actually the whole book isn’t about poo; rather it offers a straightforward look at the workings of the human digestive system, (using a pizza as exemplar)

along with some other poo-related information such as that ‘poo gives off methane and that can be burned to produce power for our homes’, as well as powering buses. Also, animal poo is useful as a fertiliser for plants and, since it contains a lot of fibre, can also be made into paper – not human poo but that of sheep, elephants and even pandas.

After a look at other waste products we make,

there’s a spread on poo-related tummy troubles, as well as one inviting you to ‘rate your poo’ (using the Bristol stool scale). Don’t try that if you’re suffering from those tummy troubles though.

If your little ones are feeling quizzical, then they might like to try matching the poo piles to the four animals illustrated on the opposite page.

The book concludes with a glossary and index. Are you ready, steady, air freshener to hand? …

Freddie the Fox Feels Frightened
John Wood and Danielle Jones
Booklife Publishing

This is one of the Healthy Minds series aimed at the foundation stage and would work either shared at home or with a nursery group.

The author uses a narrative style to explore Freddie’s feelings on the evening before and morning of Freddie’s first day at school.

Despite Andy’s reassurances, Freddie goes to bed feeling frightened about what the next day might bring. So much so that he has a scary dream about being fired from a cannon, his fall being watched by countless pairs of eyes.

When the two leave for school, Freddie takes with him his comfort blanket and even so Andy is concerned that he looks rather unwell; he certainly feels that way on account of his fears of what might happen when they arrive.

His procrastinatory tactics take the two on a rather longer than expected route and during their journey Freddie talks more about his feelings.

Eventually the wet, muddy pair arrive just in the nick of time, with Freddie’s tail all a-tremble and his heart beating fast. Andy continues to reassure him as he opens the door

and following her instructions he counts to ten, looks around and very quickly finds himself absorbed in the children’s game.

With questions to ponder during the story and more to discuss afterwards, this book is, like Andy’s words to Freddie, a reassuring one to use with those soon to start school (or a nursery class). Danielle Jones’ bright, uncluttered illustrations show how both Freddie and Andy feel throughout and should help allay those pre-first day fears in little humans.

Little Owl’s First Day / This is the Way We Go to School

Little Owl’s First Day
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Leaving a parent to begin school or nursery for the very first time, particularly when a younger sibling is still at home, can be a bit bothersome for little ones and so it is for Little Owl.

We first met the delightful character when a new sibling arrived and now he’s facing his first day at school.

When he wakes up on the big day, he isn’t feeling full of excitement as his Mummy Owl anticipates; instead the little fellow doesn’t even want to get out of bed. “I want a small day. I want to stay at home with you and Baby Owl,” he tells her.

After a lot of cajoling, they’re all ready to sally forth but then Little Owl is reluctant to pick up his new owlbag. Eventually, with Little Owl calling the tune, he sets off pushing his baby in the pram while Mummy carries his bag.

At the school door Miss Oopik is ready with a welcoming greeting; and reassuring farewell’s over, Little Owl is gently encouraged to try his wing at painting.

His picture is Mummy and Baby Owl moonbound in a rocket, and they seem to occupy his every thought for a considerable part of the morning until snack time is announced. And then it looks as though Little Owl might just have found a friend as he and Tiny Owl share the contents of their owlbags with one another.

The rest of the session seems to pass in a flash before Miss Oopik calls them all together for a story.

Soon, who should be waiting outside but Mummy and Baby Owl; but Little Owl is much too sleepy to tell them all about how he spent his time.

Debi Gliori’s gently humorous tale is a real situation soother that will embrace a first timer like a warm comfort blanket, especially since it’s woven together with Alison Brown’s scenes of adorable strigine characters small and not so small.

This is the Way We Go to School
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

Ideal for little ones about to start, or already at nursery or playschool, is this board book version of a favourite song, complete with sliders. With these your child can help the little tigers in the early morning to get out of bed; eat their breakfast, brush their teeth

and walk to school, where they smilingly wave a farewell to their parents before rushing inside to join their friends.
In addition to the sliders that facilitate getting up, teeth brushing and waving, there’s a wheel to turn that brings into view a host of other animals all hurrying schoolwards.

Both the tigers’ home, and the journey to school spreads have plenty of interesting details for little humans to spot and discuss.

Inside the front cover, is a QR code to scan onto a phone or tablet and download that provides a sing along version of the song.

Jessica’s Box

Emmanuelle, who starts school this week,  engrossed in the story.

Jessica’s Box
Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing

Jessica’s mind was too busy for sleep. / Her thoughts are already with tomorrow.’ …
‘tomorrow’ being the day Jessica is starting school. The whole family is excited. She’s determined to make friends and to that end, with her to school goes a large cardboard box.
On the first day it contains her teddybear; but the other children are unimpressed and leave her alone. The second day is really no better: she fills the box with cupcakes.

They quickly draw a momentary crowd, but ne’er even a thank you.
Time for some serious thinking.
On the third day, Jessica takes her dog, Doris in the box. She has a temporary success but then the school caretaker steps in and Doris is returned home.
Day four arrives and Jessica takes an empty box ….

Then a little boy notices her and the seeds of a friendship are sown …

Carnavas’s potent images, with and without full colour, need few accompanying words to relate the emotional rollercoaster of Jessica’s first few days at school. The message is clear, just be yourself: true friends will love you for what you are; you cannot ‘buy’ friendship however hard you try.
A perfect, starting school story; but equally, with its friendship theme, a lovely book to share at any time: the author really does see things from behind the child’s head.

I’ve signed the charter  

Mouse’s Big Day / All Birds Have Anxiety / Mouse and the Storm

Mouse’s Big Day
Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books
Mouse is going to school for the very first time and even before leaving home, she’s decided it’s not for her. Her dawdling tactics don’t work, nor does her “I don’t want to” response to all Mummy mouse’s encouraging remarks; finally she’s left at Twit Twoo School in the safe hands of teacher, Miss Hoot.

She has an exciting project for her class: “… go out and find something. Something special. Maybe something only you can find.
Mouse reluctantly joins her classmates all of whom thoroughly enjoy rummaging, upturning rocks, digging and pond peering, although she’s too shy to be anything but an onlooker. While the others are busy contemplating their findings …

Mouse vanishes. Miss Hoot knows just where to look for her though, and eventually a kindly paw proffered by Mole encourages Mouse to emerge from her hiding place and follow the others back indoors.
There she makes a series of discoveries that ultimately lead her to a very important realisation. School is an exciting place after all and she cannot wait for tomorrow.
Populated by adorable animal characters, Mouse’s school is an inviting place and Lydia Monks’ heart-warming story of her first day gets right to the heart of how the less outgoing among 4 year olds are likely to feel on their ‘Big Day’. This is just right to share with a nursery and preschool groups, or individuals, in the lead up to starting school.
Further reassurance about coping with tricky situations comes in:

All Birds Have Anxiety
Kathy Hoopman
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Statistics show that more and more children have anxiety problems, often starting at a young age. I’ve talked about educational issues that I feel are to a large degree responsible in other reviews so will just say that here is a photographic picture book that will help children of all ages better understand the condition.
By populating it with birds of all kinds with appealing faces,

and in amusing poses,

the author gives a serious topic just the right degree of lightness and gentle humour.
Anxiety in all its forms is discussed including how stress can effect everyday activities – ‘Everyday jobs, like combing hair, changing clothes or making decisions are too much to think about ’; its possible causes – ‘it often runs in families’; how to deal with it: ‘Being with those who listen to us and accept us makes a world of difference.’ and ‘Exercise, plenty of sunshine and a healthy diet are all a huge help.’ for instance.
Unthreatening, fun and enormously helpful for children of all ages, whether they suffer from anxiety or just want to understand it better in others.
For educators and those they have dealings with, be that in school, at home or in another setting.
Anxiety prone youngsters will benefit from some therapeutic reflexology as in:

Mouse and the Storm
Susan Quayle, illustrated by Melissa Muldoon
Singing Dragon
Reflexologist, complementary therapist and developer of The Children’s Reflexology Programme follows The Mouse’s House with a third story intended, this time for reflexology on a child’s hands.
Using Mouse and the five other animal characters to represent reflex areas of the hand, Quayle weaves a charming rhyming story to accompany the sessions of hand reflexology. It’s especially designed for use with young children, in particular those who have anxieties be they associated with ASD, new experiences, or another condition where calming treatments are required.
With hand instructions at the top of each left hand page and a charmingly quirky illustration on the right, adults can read the story of what happens when the animals awake to discover a storm scattered them far from the comfort of their own homes

while applying the gentle movements to the young recipient’s hands.
Since no prior reflexology experience is needed, this is a book for any parent of an anxious young child to add to the family bookshelf.

I’ve signed the charter  

How To Be a Hero / Mary Had a Little Glam

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How to be a Hero
Florence Parry Heide and Chuck Groenink
Chronicle Books
Anyone who has read The Shrinking of Treehorn will be familiar with the author’s wry humour: that same humour is inherent in this posthumously published picture book. Meet Gideon, a nice boy who lives with his parents in a nice house and has, seemingly, everything a boy could want. What young Gideon really wants though is to be a hero but he’s not quite sure how to go about it. He has some ideas though: You have to be strong, brave and clever like this surely?

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After further foraging into fairytales such as this one ‘the story where a witch gives a girl a poisoned apple and when she takes a bite she goes into a deep sleep which is sort of being dead but not really and nothing will get her awake except a kiss and someone does see her sleeping there and he kisses her and he’s a hero, just like that.’ however, he comes to the conclusion that really, all this heroism takes is just being in the right place at the right time. QED! Well that and err… keeping your eyes open. This does entail actually noticing what’s going on around you though – something of which Gideon appears unaware, as heroic act opportunities present themselves to left and right as he heads, eventually, to the supermarket to spend his pocket money.

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There, a heroic act is, assuredly performed but by whom? Yes, Gideon is the recipient of a whole lot of media attention but for what? Wish fulfilled, he’s certainly front-page news – a hero. Err? He certainly thinks so.
Groenink brings out the subtle humour of the telling beautifully; it’s there all the way through if you look closely – very closely in some places; and in others, such as the shop sign with its reference to Propp (Vladimir – Morphology of the Folk Tale) and (Bruno) Bettelheim above the butchers it’s likely to go over the heads of young children. I love the way he switches from the dreary reality of Gideon’s home and locality to the more colourful fantasy world of the fairy tale world he visits in his imagination.
Certainly with this book, it’s a case of what you bring to the story making a big difference to what you get out of it.

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Mary Had a Little Glam
Tammi Sauer and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Sterling
A funky take on the nursery rhyme wherein fashion fanatic “I must accessorize” Mary starts school determined to make her mark. Seemingly her classmates at Mother Goose school are happy to merge into their surroundings though …

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Mary however, is set on bringing a whole lot more glitz and glamour to her pals. She gets to work adding accessories and generally jazzing up not just the pupils, but everyone and everything in her school.

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Playtime comes and with it a realisation that Mary and her decked-out pals are way too over-dressed for energetic outdoor romping and rampaging. No matter – Mary can turn her hand to un-accessorising too …

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and she’s certainly queen of messy play – hurray for Mary.
With its bouncy rhyme and suitably flamboyant illustrations of Mary and her supporting cast, this is lots of fun to share with those around Mary’s age.

First Day at Bug School

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First Day at Bug School
Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Wow! This is a Bug-alicious book absolutely full to bursting with buggish delights all of which are hidden (except to readers of the story) amongst the grass and weeds down at the bottom of the garden, and it’s the very first day of term. Yes, it’s there that Miss Bumblebee has her BUG SCHOOL and she’s already welcoming all the new entrants with open arms – well appendages anyway. Seemingly they can’t wait to start school especially when she tells them, “You’ll have the best time ever!” (I bet Miss B. doesn’t have pointless assessments to perform on them almost as soon as they set foot inside, or mindless targets for them to reach.)
Seemingly Miss Bumblebee is something of a traditionalist: she takes the register formally with all the newcomers facing her and then off they go to their respective classes. Mr Wincey takes Spider Class where there’s a vital lesson to be learnt …

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Chloe Cricket spends her time in singing: there’s a new song to be learned in her class, Lucy Ladybird meanwhile, has a spot of counting to do – literally – courtesy of her very spotty pal …

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Lunch time is spent together with ants to assist; and that’s followed by outside play where ‘There are things to climb on, / things to slide on, / things to squash / and mend./ And little / Daisy Dragonfly / has made a / brand new friend.’ (The entire story is told in rhyme) It all looks great fun, but over in the Boy Bugs’ loos Billy Beetle is in a bit of a fix …

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There’ll be a puddle on the floor if Sylvester Snail doesn’t get a shifty on.
Then there’s P.E. at which Freddie Flea is bound to excel and last of all – the very best time of the day – is story time and Miss Bumblebee ready in her special story chair…

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After all the fun, the bell signals that it’s time to go home and then from all the bugs comes the inevitable “Can we come again tomorrow” cry, shouted at full volume.
I love the almost ariel view of the whole school on the final spread, but to see that, you’ll need your own copy of this super book and I’m certain if you have youngsters about to start school, or even nursery come September, then this is for you and your little one to enjoy together. There is just SO much to look at and talk about in Sam Lloyd’s stupendous minibeast-filled scenes.

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Ballet Dreams

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Ballet Dreams
Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson
Scholastic Children’s Books
In this enchanting story we are introduced to the adorable young Little Bird, so called by her Granddad, because of her penchant for pirouettes and other swallow-like dance steps. When we meet her, Little Bird is about to start school but is somewhat reluctant; she’d far rather be spending her time dancing. However, she is eventually persuaded by Granddad’s talk of learning to read books and spelling her name. to accompany him to visit the school.
On the way however, Little Bird hears music coming from an old theatre and the two stop off to see  ballet dancers practising their Swan Lake.

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Entranced by her graceful moves, the child speaks to the lead dancer who suggests when she grows up she might join the company but meanwhile, there is a children’s class about to begin. In she goes and dances briefly …

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But then, from the swan princess she hears some important words “even ballerinas go to school. … Everything you learn is like a feather. When you have gathered enough, … all that you’ve learned will help you to fly.”

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With this advice ringing in her ears off goes Little Bird to meet her new classmates in a classroom ‘of sunlight and stories’. I love that.
Thereafter we share with Little Bird, a wonderful surprise from Granddad, a dance all the way to school on her first day and a glorious balletic finale.

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A delightful, uplifting, starting school, spreading your wings and following your dreams story; it will please all would-be dancers in particular. And, Laura Ellen Anderson’s tender, soft-focus illustrations portray that very special bond between the very young and the ‘old’ beautifully.

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