You Can!

You Can!
Alexandra Stick and Steve Antony
Otter-Barry Books

Here’s a book that began with children: those children from diverse backgrounds who responded to Alexandra Strickland’s question what they would say to their younger selves to inspire, reassure and enthuse them about the future. This wonderful book with Steve’s brilliantly inclusive illustrations using fourteen child characters, represents their answers.

We then follow these characters as they grow from babies (on the front endpapers), to toddlers, to young children, to older children and finally, into young adults (on the back endpapers). The cast of characters truly is diverse, as their wide variety of interests, identities, friendships and futures develop as readers turn the pages.

It’s definitely no holds barred: you can be anything you want, do anything you want (including ‘love a good picture book whatever your age’) hurrah! –

safe in the knowledge that it’s fine to be sad or angry, to talk about your feelings and discover what makes you happy.

Equally, it’s important to have big dreams and pursue them using whatever path it takes, be a leader or a follower, not forgetting to make time for playfulness and silliness along the way.

It’s important to realise that those fears of yesterday will be today’s challenges and tomorrow’s achievements, practice can be fun and learning should be enjoyable.

We see that seemingly small individual actions can inspire other people and together all those small somethings can and do make a difference. Equally though everybody has rights.

Not everybody needs to do things in the same way, but all honest ways must be equally valid: doing something differently is doing it nonetheless.

On this journey through life, it’s crucial to know that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process; it’s important too, that you forgive yourself as well as others, and ask adults for help if you need. Be yourself, for yourself, determined, supportive, an individual who doesn’t allow others to categorise you, is kind and empathetic: self-belief is key probably now more than ever.

Hugely empowering and inspiring, this a book that needs to be in every home and classroom. Children and adults will love the gentle humour and playfulness in Steve’s illustrations: each spread deserves close study.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Ian Fleming, adapted by Peter Bently, illustrated by Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books

This is a retelling of Ian Fleming’s classic tale by the popular picture book author Peter Bently, illustrated by Steve Antony of Mr Panda fame..

The Potts family – mum, dad (a clever inventor) and their two children Jemima and Jeremy – are a poor but happy family. That is, until one of dad’s inventions makes a fortune and off they go to buy a car. 

Unimpressed by any of those on offer at the garage, they’re about to leave when Dad notices something under a cover. Beneath that cover is a large and very much the worse for wear, racing car, destined the next day for the scrapyard.

Young Jeremy has great faith in his father’s ability to restore it to its former glory and after spending weeks shut away in his workshop, Dad introduces them to a splendidly shiny vehicle.

In climbs Dad and when he starts the engine, they hear this ‘CHITTY! CHITTY! BANG! BANG!’ before the vehicle rumbles into life. There’s only one thing they can call this car and you know what that is … Off they go for a drive to the beach and when they get stuck in a traffic jam, a mere push of a knob causes it to WHOOSH skywards as they take flight, 

destination a beach on a deserted island.

Fortunately, the car is better at spotting danger than the humans, and just before the tide engulfs them, Mum presses the flashing button and Chitty is transformed into a speedboat that takes them whizzing through the foggy waters to the coast of France.

What follows is an even more exciting part of their adventure involving a chase (of a famous robber and his gang) 

through the streets towards Paris where a hot-air balloon awaits the gold thieves. But they’d reckoned without a certain amazingly adaptable car …

Peter’s telling sweeps you along in the mounting excitement and Steve’s terrific, detailed illustrations provide readers with varying perspectives from which to witness the action. Together they’ve created a wonderful way to introduce youngsters to the original story.

Amazing

Amazing
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books

The boy narrator of this wonderful picture book has a pet dragon named Zibbo. Zibbo can fly thanks to the boy’s teaching; and our narrator, thanks to his pet, knows exactly how to …

The two are pretty much inseparable and a terrific hit with the boy’s friends. Zippo is ace at hide-and-seek though basketball is at times troublesome, depending on who is catching the ball.

A true party enthusiast, Zippo can on occasion get just a tad over-animated, or should that be over-heated …

No matter what though, as different as he may be, Zippo is the very bestest best friend a child could possibly have: it’s a case of ‘no holds barred’ when it comes to challenges in the company of the tiny dragon, who in the narrator’s closing words truly is AMAZING! Just the way he is. The boy though doesn’t actually have the final words – those are left to Zippo …

Amazing too is the book’s creator, Steve. His joyously inclusive portrayal of boy and pet is a cause for celebration: it’s rare to find a mainstream trade publication with a disabled child as its main character, let alone one so prominently portrayed on the front cover. Even more important though, is that the narrator’s disability is incidental with the celebration of friendship taking centre stage.

Having taught in both mainstream and special education, I know for sure that the likelihood of students who are different being picked on by ignorant or thoughtless individuals, increases the further through the system they go. Young children are in my experience far more open and accepting of differences of all kinds, just like those in this story. However it’s the place to start when it comes to developing those open-hearted attitudes.

A must for all nurseries, early years settings and primary schools as well as the family bookshelf.

The Queen’s Lift-Off

The Queen’s Lift-Off
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books

Those of us who watched the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics will probably recall that Her Majesty the Queen was, so we were led to believe, parachuted into the stadium.
Who would have thought that just a few years later she’d find herself blasting off into space aboard the rocket she’s just helped the little prince and princess to build?

WHOOOSH! goes the Queen, zooming faster than the speed of light, first to Mercury. After which, comet-like she soars to Venus,

before coming to land on the Moon’s surface

from whence it’s merely a matter of a single giant leap to the Red Planet.

Then she boldly takes flight towards Jupiter before she’s off again to spin rings around Saturn.

Zipping on past Uranus and Neptune, not forgetting little Pluto, she’s suddenly sucked into an enormous black hole.

Surely that cannot be the end of Her Royal Highness?

Not so: thank the universe then, for a passing spaceship that succeeds in safely beaming her up and depositing her safe and sound and none the worse for her awesome adventure, back in the palace garden, where it just happens to be afternoon tea-time. Hurrah!

And who, or what, should be there to serve it up …

Into his seemingly simple story Steve manages to weave some wonderful textual references to Star Trek and the American moon landings.

As always however, it’s the awesome illustrations that carry not just one, but many stories (as well as visual starting points for children’s own storying). However many times one looks at them there always seems to be something new to discover and enjoy. In this story there’s the ever -increasing number of loyal companions the Queen has on her journey, as well as a little alien and his flying saucer which appear from time to time.
Oh and of course, in each and every scene there’s a royal corgi complete with space-helmet, looking as though he’s thoroughly enjoying every minute of the adventure, Oddly enough, her highness just happens to have some dog biscuits (along with her lippy, perfume spray, specs and the various other necessities she carries in her handbag).
I’m guessing since its near loss, she’s never parted from this vital article of personal storage.

I think this series just keeps on reaching new heights; this one is my favourite thus far, although I was probably predisposed so to think because I was lucky enough to have my review copy signed and handed to me by Steve himself. You can’t get better than that – until the next one, perhaps.

Daydreams and Night Dreams

When I Grow Up
Tim Minchin and Steve Antony
Scholastic

Inspired by Tim Minchin’s song of the same name from Matilda the Musical, this book takes a (mostly) light-hearted look from a child’s viewpoint, at what it’s like to be an adult.
Of course, you’ll need to know the answers to a great many questions and that means being smart.
But think of being able to ‘eat sweets every day’,

‘go to bed late every night’, get up with the sun and watch endless cartoons without a care.
Life isn’t all roses though; there are heavy things to ‘haul around’ and creatures that lurk beneath the bed to fight with.

But all that’s offset by daily treats, playful opportunities in abundance …

and days spent lying in the sun without damaging the skin – we wish!
Is that what we grown-ups really do? Hmm …
Steve Antony surely has made adulthood look like a ball, even the less desirable activities; and those young narrators of his are boundless energy personified.

One Moonlit Night
Zanna Davidson and Seo Kim
Templar Publishing

Through a prose poem and amazing pop-ups we share in a little girl’s magical dream of an amazing adventure wherein she flies through the star-filled sky aback a dragon, encountering three-headed giants, trolls and ogres …

before, swathed in clouds, invoking her very own dragon spell.
Magical pop-out scenes of a journey through swirling waters and inky skies make for a wondrous, just before bedtime book to share.

Unplugged

Unplugged
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books

Steve Antony has departed from his usual illustrative style for this new book, a book with a vital message, very cleverly constructed and beautifully portrayed.
We first meet Blip in her plugged in black and white world, a world where yes, she learns new things, has fun, dances, travels even, albeit virtually, all day and every day.

Then one day there’s a power cut, disconnecting Blip from all of that, plunging her world into darkness and causing her to trip and go hurtling into the great outdoors.

There, Blip discovers are new things to learn, fun games to play, music to dance to and faraway places to visit, all day long and in the company of some wonderful new friends.
Inevitably though, the time comes for her to bid her friends farewell and return from this world of soft colours and joyful exuberance,

to go back to her plugged in existence. Now though, she knows at least something of the delights the real world has to offer.

Yes, we’ve heard the message before but never conveyed with such finesse as here. Steve has already set the bar extremely high with his Mr Panda stories and The Queen’s … sequence: now he’s reached new heights with this modern day parable.

Thank You, Mr Panda

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Thank You, Mr Panda
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
Mr Panda’s back in story number three – hurray! This might just be my favourite to date; the final spread certainly had me laughing out loud in delight; and I absolutely love the return of those doughnuts.
Mr P. has five beautifully wrapped parcels and as he sets out to deliver them, lemur is eager to know who the recipients will be. ’My friends’ comes the response.
Mouse’s hole is the first stop:

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a beautiful sweater is duly unwrapped – it’s somewhat on the generous size though. ‘It’s the thought that counts’ lemur tells him. Next comes Octopus; he seems pleased but there is a slight snag …

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Elephant seems altogether disinterested in his gift – little does he know what he’s missing. The next venue requires a balloon ride for it’s Mountain Goat. The sight of him teetering atop his mountain weighed down by his gift is wonderful and of course, lemur chips in with “it’s the thought …’ once more.
That leaves just one present; who will be its lucky recipient? Lemur is thrilled to find it’s him and he’s effusive in his thanks. That’s before he’s opened it though; and now it’s Mr Panda’s turn to toss in the ‘…it’s the thought that counts’ reminder.
Delicious endpapers show, at the front – the five parcels ready and waiting for delivery; and at the back,

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Mr Panda’s five friends sporting (or clutching – almost – in the case of Elephant) their gifts.

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Festive Fun and Frolics

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Nuddy Ned’s Christmas
Kes Gray and Garry Parsons
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Nuddy Ned likes nothing better than to dash around in the altogether and yes, he’s super excited it being Christmas Eve; but dashing outside into the snowy evening chill is nothing short of crackers. There’s no stopping the little fellow though; he’s on a mission to meet Santa and he’s perfectly prepared to charge down the street and around the town completely starkers, parents in hot pursuit, in order to do so. Only some strategically placed flaps and other judiciously positioned items including a bird, a glove …

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and a bauble preserve his modesty.
Does this madcap streak finally get Ned what he wants – that Santa encounter, you’ll probably be wondering. Yes he does and Santa’s none too impressed at Ned’s lack of clothing but in the end it seems like a question of beat’em or join’em: what will Santa do? That would be telling wouldn’t it!
Kes Gray’s cracking rhyming text combined with equally giggle-inducing illustrations from Garry Parsons makes for some delightfully silly festive fun.

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The Queen’s Present
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
Imagine being able to call on Father Christmas himself for a spot of last minute emergency present buying, but that is exactly what the Queen does in her desire to find the perfect gift for her great grandchildren. Down he comes and off they go on a whistle stop flight with a whole host of hangers-on in the form of Santa’s little helpers who have much work to do in the way of festooning the various landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Himeji Castle, Sydney Opera House …

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and the Statue of Liberty over which they fly before finally landing in the North Pole. Even there though, Her Majesty is unable to find the perfect present. With Christmas Day almost upon them, there seems to be only one thing to do …

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This whole crazy romp is executed using an appropriately seasonal colour palette. It’s not my favourite Steve Antony but it’s full of things to make you smile; and those elves really do earn their keep as well as having a terrific time adorning all those iconic landmarks.

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Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
The excitement is palpable in Winnie and Wilbur’s house as they bake, write cards and festoon the place with decorations. Then it’s time for writing those all important letters to Santa …

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Christmas Eve comes at last and just as the pair drop off to sleep, they hear a cry for help: something has gone drastically wrong with Santa’s chimney descent. It’s fortunate that Winnie just happens to have her wand right there on the bedside table and with a quick wave and a magical utterance, she soon has their visitor back on his feet and they’re off on an amazing adventure.

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Full of seasonal magic and excitement, this is sure to delight, especially that final pop-out surprise …

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For the very youngest:

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
This song on which this chunky board book is based is probably one of the most frequently sung in primary schools and nurseries in the run up to Christmas.
Here we join a host of warmly clad, cute animal friends celebrating the seasonal joys together as they sleigh, skate, ski and deliver presents before gathering together in a warm cosy room to share some gifts.

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In addition to the moving parts, you can further add to toddlers’ enjoyment by scanning the QR code inside the front cover and getting an audio version to sing along with.

Monster in the Hood

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Monster in the Hood
Steve Antony
Oxford University Press
When a notice appears in town warning of THE MONSTER IN THE HOOD, Sammy Squirrel, Henri Hedgehog and Marvin Mouse all want to see the creature for themselves. Sammy dares it to show itself: “Come out, come out, wherever you are! You won’t scare us!” he shouts. The only response is a squeak but that’s from a pack of rats, one of which warns of the large orange-eyed monster. “The monster in the hood … grumbly and rumbly and will eat you for dinner.” Does this scare the pants off the fearless trio? Most certainly not; it’s Henri’s turn to address the monster this time and as he does so,

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there comes a screech, which turns out to be a cloud of bats. They add ‘huge shaggy hands’ to the monster’s attributes but do nothing to ruffle the cool headedness of the three monster seekers.

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Marvin Mouse tries his luck at calling for the creature and no sooner has he completed his challenge than a ‘clutter of cats’ comes by with words about a ‘big scary mouth’ – to no avail of course. The intrepid trio try calling in unison and out of the silence steps …

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Yes, it definitely matches the description given by the rat, bat and cat but none of them has given the vital piece of information that makes all the difference; and that related to what it didn’t have – a friend. Seemingly the other animals were wrong about what the monster really wanted after all – or, were they?
I love the night-time urban setting and the wacky characters of this twisted cautionary tale and Steve Antony’s choice of colour palette is, as ever, spot on. Every time I see a new book from this guy, I think ‘that’s my favourite’ but then along comes another and another and …

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I’ll Wait, Mr Panda

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I’ll Wait, Mr Panda
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
Sporting a chef’s hat and delectable doughnut-patterned pinny, and wielding mixing bowl and spoon, straight-faced Mr Panda is back to deliver another lesson in manners and this time it’s all about being rewarded for patience. But when it comes to discovering the surprise being cooked up by Mr P, patience is something that is decidedly lacking in llama: he definitely doesn’t want to wait.

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Neither does aardvark although he thinks it could be cookies on the menu.

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And those bunnies are rather hoping for cupcakes but will they “wait and see” What do you think?

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Seemingly it’s only that one small penguin who has the right attitude when it comes to the waiting game. He’s determined to stick it out till the last.
So, will his patience be duly rewarded when Mr Panda finally produces the outcome of his labours? Err – yes but …

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Another one to relish: Steve Antony’s droll humour shines through yet again in this tasty tale of delayed gratification. The guy is a genius and cannot seem to put a foot (or a paw) wrong. More please Mr A. and of course, I’ll wait …

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War or Peace? Ninja Baby/Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles

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Ninja Baby
David Zeltser and Diane Goode
Chronicle Books
An original take on a new sibling is offered in this hilarious book written in a wonderfully wry manner. Born a ninja for sure, Nina immediately shows her nature by karate chopping the doctor in return for her ‘make sure she’s breathing thump on the behind’.

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We then follow her path as she masters the sneak attack, hand-to-hand combat, obliteration, even advanced infiltration:

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total independence no less. Life is, one might say, pretty peachy for young Nina until that is, the arrival of a new prodigy: a veritable Kung Fu Master.

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In no time at all, this creature has wormed his way into his parents’ affections by doing nothing other than being utterly adorable. Guess who is far from happy.

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And seemingly young Nina has a few things to learn from the Master and vice-versa …

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Together they can become an indomitable force …

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I love the way the different, contrasting energies are portrayed in Diane Goode’s delectable watercolour and ink scenes: Fast moving, Ninja Nina’s success is her stealth. (That all out tantrum scene is sheer genius in its demonstration of the art of ninja.) Her placid, manipulative baby brother is altogether other. A total heart-stealer if ever there was one (or two!)

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Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
The Green Lizards and the Red Rectangles wage war on one another as first one side – the GLs – is in the ascendant, and then the other, as tricky tactics from the RRs truly test the strength of the GLs.

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Until one Green Lizard has the audacity to question the whole thing.

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He however is firmly squashed and the battle then quickly reaches epic proportions …

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culminating in total exhaustion on both sides.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” declares a small Red Rectangle and indeed it is for the two sides then face one another for a truce.
And, finally they work together to construct a way of living in peace and harmony.

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Long may it continue …
Seemingly simple, this is a brilliantly clever, totally original fable of our time. It packs a powerful punch about peace (and the futility of war), delivering a message that one hopes young children will take on board and keep with them as they mature. Indeed the questions raised here in this allegorical story are equally relevant to older children and adults. I suggest teachers of children in KS2 and beyond share it with their classes too.

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The Queen’s Handbag

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The Queens’s Handbag
Steve Antony,
Hodder Children’s Books
There sits Her Majesty in the royal coach set to depart on her Great Britain tour when ‘swoosh!’ along comes a swan and away it swoops clutching her handbag firmly in its beak. Abandoning the coach, the Queen speeds off in her Aston Martin convertible hot on the trail of the sneaky thief all the way to Windsor Castle …

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and thence to Stonehenge.
From there it’s next stop Dover, followed by Oxford, Snowdonia, the Giants Causeway, Edinburgh Castle and all the way back to where she started. In the course of her break-neck chase Her Royal Majesty changes vehicle many times from motor bike, to Red Arrow plane, to penny farthing,

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then a parachute, a speedboat, a steam train

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– what an amazing acrobat she is – and a final gallop right back to London where she finds herself and the thieving bird caught up in the London Marathon. WOW! See her go …

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but can she catch that sneaky swan and retrieve the object of her chase? That would be telling wouldn’t it…
Delivered with considerable aplomb, and rendered in an appropriately regal colour palette, with a Union flag strategically placed in almost every location spread, not to mention a royal corgi, this is more than a worthy successor to The Queen’s Hat.
One cannot help but wonder just how many police officers got themselves involved in the chase (their antics are hilarious), and Her Majesty’s butler too makes a special appearance.
A laugh-on-every-page follow up to The Queen’s Hat and a veritable visual feast of British landmarks and the constabulary.

There’s an exciting event coming up in London on 23rd to 29th October: the Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition

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Use your local bookshop

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Betty Goes Bananas In Her Pyjamas

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Enjoying Betty’s antics

Betty Goes Bananas in her Pyjamas
Steve Antony
Oxford University Press
Brilliant bananas! Beloved Betty is back sporting her snazzy banana print PJs this time and being her usual recalcitrant self. It’s her bedtime but – like most infants – she has other things to do. Things like making music …

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A sleep-inducing activity surely thinks Mr Toucan but oh dear me …

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especially not when there’s a painting easel standing there just calling out to be used; and use it she does emphatically …

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Till yawn … But no inducement from Mr T. is going to work, not even that snuggle up with “your big, cuddly teddy bear.’ Because there are all those exciting-looking vehicles to BEEP! HONK! CHOO! CHOO! and WHOOSH!.
Finally the long-suffering Mr T. has had enough. “STOP!” he yells but he has a trump card up his sleeve and it’s one that any self-respecting infant gorilla or child should be happy to settle for …

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So let’s leave the two of them happily together sharing the bedtime story book as I really don’t want to spoil that wonderfully funny finale.
This is such a cracking book, one of those you want to shout about and wave from the rooftops.
Assuredly parents of youngsters will immediately recognize the delaying game Betty is playing and empathise with Mr Toucan as he patiently – well, most of the time – does battle with Betty But, even more importantly, I hope that they will employ his sleep-inducing tactic.

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Manners & Friendship in Black and White

panda 5 Please Mr Panda
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
Would you like a doughnut?” the chunky panda asks a penguin on the opening spread of Steve Antony’s third picture book. Less than impressed by the penguin’s impolite  response, panda4 he changes his mind and moves on, offering his tray of delicious-looking, colourful treats to several other animals including one who has the enormous cheek – (but then it is a whale) to retort, “I want them all! Then bring me some more.” Unsurprisingly none of the answers meet with his approval and the offer is hastily withdrawn. panda 3 It’s not until the resolute panda encounters lemur that he receives a polite answer with that all -important p-word included. So pleased is Mr Panda on hearing the elusive word being uttered (he even gets a “Thank you very much!”) that he gives the charming creature the whole box panda2 with the throwaway remark, “You’re welcome. I don’t like doughnuts.” A wonderfully stylish and witty lesson in basic manners: The sight of that solemn-faced panda sporting a tiny paper hat bearing the single word Doughnuts and remaining  impassive in the face of rudeness, is enormously endearing. With such artistry I’m sure Mr P. will quickly become a firm favourite with all who have dealings with young children as well as the book’s intended audience themselves. The latter will, I suspect feel a sense of anticipatory delight at every turn of the page, until that all-important, topsy-turvy panda/lemur encounter. With its deliciously droll illustrations, cleverly patterned text, inviting layout and memorable words young readers will want to try reading it for themselves after sharing it with an adult a couple of times. panda 1 Mr P. will undoubtedly provide a third winner for Mr A.

 

bl&w 7 Black and White
Dahlov Ipcar
Flying Eye Books
Said to have been inspired by the US civil rights movement, this stylish book was originally published in the early 60s and is now reissued by a British publisher whose hallmarks are design and production of the highest quality. The story itself, tells of two dogs, one black, the other white that play together by day and part at night to return to separate homes to sleep and dream. It is their dreams that Ipcar explores in gentle rhythmic rhyme and glorious visuals, as the black dog’s dream takes him off to a dark African jungle. A place populated by elephants, monkeys and fierce panthers, bl&w 2 where zebras and antelopes graze and ‘Black-and-white butterflies everywhere/Fill the flower-scented air.’ bl&w 3 The little white dog meanwhile is transported to the snowy, icy arctic. There ‘On the shore stand polar bears, / While arctic foxes chase arctic hares.’ bl&w 4 and seals and great whales swim in the chilly waters below which black-and-white fishes glide, walruses rest on the ice-floes and sea birds nest on the rocks. Come morning, the canine pals reunite to play together side-by-side once again and to recount to one another the details of their dream-world travels. bl&w 6 Stylish retro, yet timeless illustrations, grace every page demonstrating just how perfectly Ipcar balances form and colour. Use your local bookshop: localbookshops_NameImage-2 Don’t forget February 14th ibgdposterlarge

Banana Drama, Mane Mania

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Betty Goes Bananas

Steve Antony
Oxford University Press
Betty’s grin is irresistible; in fact Betty herself is, despite her tantrums. Tantrums she seems to throw at the drop of a hat – or rather a banana; for it’s a banana that is the cause of all the bother. No matter how hard she tries hungry Betty just cannot open her banana.

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(It must be one of the same young finger-defying variety supplied to infant schools). So what does she do? Cries, sniffles, kicks and screams

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and finally, calms down, Along comes Mr Toucan offering to help but our determined miss is having none of it: off she goes again. WAAAAH! SNIFF! SNIFF! BANG! BANG! AAAAAAAAAAAA! …
wise words from Mr Toucan … Betty bites but the banana breaks …

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here we go again, repeat performance … More timely words from long-suffering Mr T. … Betty eats YUM! Mr T. departs … but what’s that on the ground there …

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Brilliantly simple, simply brilliant. Steve Antony’s second picture book is even better than his debut performance and that was a hard act to follow.

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Monty’s Magnificent Mane

Gemma O’Neill
Templar Publishing pbk
King of the jungle, Monty’s mane is his pride and joy. His friends the meerkats admire its glowing magnificence and flatter him about it, which pleases Monty so he allows them to play therein. Not for long though; their tugging and tickling become annoying and Monty shakes them off, taking a tumble in so doing and messing up his mane. The meerkats’ attempts to restore it to magnificence are not to Monty’s liking

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so off he stomps to check out his reflection in the waterhole heedless of a small meerkat’s warning. Now Monty’s just loves flattery and so when he hears words like “wonderful mane” coming from the green, cheeky eyed creature in the water, he’s only to happy to go nearer so he can show it off at close range… SNAP!

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Oops! One croc’s mouth stuffed with mane: one fleeing lion hotly pursued by said croc. hungry for dinner.
That croc. is still hot on his heels when he gets home, so it’s time for Monty to make an difficult decision –which is more important – the lives of his meerkat friends or an always perfect mane?
 Brilliant colours , and somewhat Scarfe-like, exaggerated images of Monty and croc. make for dramatic effect in Gemma O’Neill’s wonderfully textured mixed media illustrations.
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The Queen’s Hat

 

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Nina and Rosa hot on the trail of that royal hat

The Queen’s Hat
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
A strong wind whisks the Queen’s hat – her favourite – from her head and tosses it up into the sky as she leaves Buckingham Palace to visit a very special someone.

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So begins a madcap chase led by Her Majesty, hotly followed by the Queen’s men right across London from her residence, traversing Trafalgar Square, through London Zoo, down onto the London Underground,

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around the London Eye, over Tower Bridge and Big Ben until swoosh! …
Where did those brollies come from? …

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right down to the gardens of Kensington Palace and onto a certain infant …

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There is visual humour in abundance here and the energetic text (printed in regal red) with its matter of fact manner of telling is a nice contrast.
Steve Antony’s choice of a limited colour palette (red, white, and blue plus grey and black) is particularly apt for the subject matter herein. And, that bit part royal corgi almost steals the whole show.
In a word: Brilliant! In another: Priceless!
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