Builders & Breakers / A Bare Bear / In A Minute

Here are some picture books suggestions for your early years book collection:

Builders & Breakers
Steve Light
Walker Books

Two small children, whose father has left behind his lunch box, are sent by their mum to give it to him. They run to his place of work, an urban construction site.

There they see the employees hard at work banging and jackhammering, digging

and welding, operating cranes and pushing wheelbarrows. – the entire structure creating process no less.

So noisy is the site and so intent on his work is their dad, that it takes a while for the children to attract his attention amid the bangs, rat-a-tat-tat-tats

and sparks, but eventually they do.

And then (sans hard hats), they’re hauled up to join him for a well-earned break perched precariously on a horizontal construction beam.

With its onomatopoeia, alliteration and other wordplay, Light’s minimal text is perfect for little ones to join in with during a storytime, and for beginning readers to try for themselves. No matter which, they’ll absolutely love Steve Light’s scribbly-seeming, intricately detailed scenes of the construction workers and the impressive machines they operate.

Don’t miss the endpapers or the author’s final note wherein he talks of his fascination with and love of, classical, Gothic and art deco architectural styles.

A Bare Bear
Caz Hildebrand and Ashlea O’Neill
In A Minute
Clare Lowther and Ashlea O’Neill
Ladybird Books

Subtitled ‘A book of words that sound the same’, A Bare Bear will certainly transmit the ‘language is fun’ message to little ones as well as demonstrating to adults the importance of word and language play in young children’s development.
It contains bright, attractive, humorous spreads depicting examples of homonyms

or homophones.

With the book’s contemporary feel and subtle language lessons, young children will have a good laugh at the same time as being gently educated into the delights and vagaries of the English language.

In a Minute invites readers/listeners to ‘Take the 60-second challenge!’ as it first makes a statement and then issues a related challenge on the opposite side of the spread.

Have lots of fun joining your early years children in such inviting activities as a minute’s competitive sticking your tongue out and in

or hopping on one foot.

Great attention has been paid to the design of each spread: I particularly like the one of two woodpeckers attacking opposite sides of a tree trunk, that of the star-jumping girl and … actually, they’re all immediately arresting and invite longer engagement.

Get counting, get active – what are you waiting for?

Look, Look and Look Again

Where’s the Baby?
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
Baby animals are the objects of the search in Britta Teckentrup’s latest ‘spotting’ book, which, once again is intended to develop visual perception in the very young.
A rhyming text accompanies each digitally composed spread and the challenge is satisfyingly demanding for youngsters: I had to search for a while to locate the gosling on the pond.
With their matt colours and wallpaper style patterns, the artist’s visuals really demand that you look closely savouring the pleasing design of each one be it the vibrant parrots,

the farmyard hens, the kangaroos, the zebras or the seahorses to name just some of the fourteen creatures featured.
The final challenge in the book is different asking, ‘can you see the mother/ whose babies are TWINS?’
Alluring, absorbing and enjoyable.

Have You Seen My Lunch Box?
Steve Light
Walker Books
Morning chaos reigns as a small boy gets ready for school: the clock is ticking but he wants help locating all the things he needs: his socks, his pencil case, a crayon, his book,

a ball, marbles and particularly important, his lunch box. Mum and Dad are on hand to hunt but essentially it’s down to the reader to save the day and ensure he boards the bus on time.
The text, delivered as a first person narrative, appears on each verso, set against the same colour as the missing item to be located on the recto among the plethora of items inked in detail against a predominantly white background. This pattern continues throughout until the last object is safely in the hands of its owner. The final page shows all eight things.
Essentially this is a game for adult and toddler to play together: there’s plenty to talk about in addition to those misplaced items, and that’s in the hands of the adult sharer; in fact every spread is a possible starting point for some adult/child storying.

Double Take!
Susan Hood and Jay Fleck,
Walker Books
We’re in the company of a little boy, his cat and a friendly elephant being asked not to take things at first sight. Assuredly, we’re told, some opposites – in/out, asleep/ awake for instance, are pretty straightforward, albeit orchestrated herein; but others are totally dependent on one’s frame of reference.

Subtitled ‘A New Look at Opposites’ and published under the imprint Walker Studio, this rhyming invitation certainly demands that readers think about opposites with regard to perspective.

I’ve signed the charter  

Lucky Lazlo

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Lucky Lazlo
Steve Light
Walker Books
Lazlo is a young man in love. Hoping to surprise his sweetheart, who is starring in Alice in Wonderland, he buys her a beautiful red rose on opening night and dashes off to deliver it to her at the theatre. Unfortunately disaster strikes the love-struck lad en route, and the rose is stolen by a cat …

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The playful moggy leads Lazlo on a right merry dance as it dashes through the theatre backstage with the boy in hot pursuit. The resulting chase through pit, props, performers …

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and beyond is certainly a showstopper,

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with Lazlo stealing the limelight in a thoroughly satisfying finale.
Anyone familiar with Light’s previous Have You Seen My… ?  and Swap! books will know that intricately detailed black and white illustrations with judiciously placed splashes of colour is his signature style. Here, love seems to have resulted in Lucky Lazlo being flushed with colour throughout as well as more than one almost full technicolor double spread of the theatrical performance.

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In an afterword, Steve Light notes a number of superstitions related to the theatre and invites his audience to explore the pages again to discover all the rules that he has broken in the scenes.
Encore performances will definitely be the order of the day where this story is concerned.

Board Books Briefing

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I Wish I Were a Pirate
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Sarah Ward
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In a jolly rhyming narrative, a small boy entertains the possibilities of a piratical life sailing the seas, capturing a baddie of two …

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and of course, searching for buried treasure.
Small fingers will have lots of fun working the various sliders …

 

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and there’s plenty to amuse in Sarah Ward’s jolly nautical scenes, not least the activities of the stowaway mice.

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Cars Go
Steve Light
Chronicle Books
Bright watercolour illustrations accompany the irresistible onomatopoeic outpourings of the eight vehicles featured in this wide format board book.
With an old jalopy that goes CHITTYCHITTY CHITTYCHITTY KKKKTTT SHHPPPTTT SHHPPPTTT, a Monster Truck that goes KR-KR-KR KR-KR-KR- KRRUUUNCH and this beauty …

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You’re guaranteed a wonderfully noisy story session when you share this with early years children; and think of all that inbuilt sound/symbol awareness potential herein.
And, don’t you just love the playful finale …

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Listen to the Jungle
Listen to the Things that Go
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
This pair of interactive board books with lots of noise making opportunities and amusing animal pictures should provide hours of fun for the very youngest. Lions, a hippo, monkeys, an elephant, pandas and parrots …

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plus a sprinkling of minibeasts and other birds inhabit the landscapes of the former, each being introduced with a single sentence such as ‘Listen to the hippo in the water.’
Each spread has a strategically placed button, which when pressed, makes the animal’s sound.
The Things that Go are cars, a lorry, a bike …

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a train, a boat and a tram and all the drivers, riders and passengers are animals.  
Both books, when shared with an adult, offer plenty of potential for talk about each spread. (And you can discretely turn the sound switch inside the back cover to the off position if you want to.)

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Mog and Me and other stories
Judith Kerr
Harper Collins Children’s Books
For a delightful introduction to the world of Mog for the very youngest, this is just the thing and, with its easy to read text, it’s ideal for beginning readers to share with their toddler siblings.

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Here in four brief stories, we meet not only the forgetful cat herself, but also members of her extended family.

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The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books
The Hueys – usually a peaceable group of characters are having an argument when along comes Gillespie and dares to ask, “What are you fighting for?” but they’re too busy deciding who started it, so he tries again …

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Err …
The humour in this story of escalating conflict is subtle and quite sophisticated. It works well with 4s to 6s but one wonders whether it might go right over the heads of toddlers – the usual board book audience.

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SWAP! or Shop?

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SWAP!
Steve Light
Walker Books
An encounter between a tiny pirate and an impoverished sea captain with a dilapidated ship is the starting point for this wonderful tale. The small swashbuckler is quick thinking and doesn’t miss an opportunity, so when he rescues a button that pops off the captain’s coat, it leads to an amazing chain of bartering as one button becomes two teacups,

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which become three coils of rope, two of which become half a dozen oars. Then, through a whole lot more mathematical manoeuvring, swapping and trading, our young hero manages to obtain flags,

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anchors, sails …

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a ship’s wheel and a figurehead. All this and not a single coin has changed hands; but what’s even more important, the whole ship is now absolutely ship-shape and the diminutive pirate has made himself a new friend for life.
Genius storytelling. Steve Light’s signature style intricately detailed black and white pictures with just a splash of colour here and there, and a brief text of judiciously chosen words combine to make a fun-filled book for sharing and for early reading, with ‘SWAP! ‘providing the opportunity for audience participation at every transaction and helping to build tension towards the entirely satisfying finale …

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It’s buying not bartering in:

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I Went to the Supermarket
Paul Howard
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Most parents and teachers of young children will be familiar with the memory game on which this book is based. However, the two small players of the game herein have boundless imaginations and so their ‘purchases’ range from …

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and a cute baby elephant, through to …

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And then of course, there are more mundane items such as jelly – oh – make that a mountain of the stuff, not your average small packet. Remember that one though: it proves to be somebody’s undoing so to speak. Whoops! Nearly forgot those bubbles – they’re quite important too.
A totally ridiculous flight of fancy that’s sure to be lapped up by young audiences who will delight in the craziness of the whole thing so wonderfully visualised by Paul Howard, particularly I suspect, those super hero pants; they end up in the most unlikely of places. And, then there’s the fun of trying to recall all those purchases – no peeping allowed. For sheer ebullience, this one takes some beating.

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Rosie’s Chick & a Missing Monster

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Where, Oh Where, is Rosie’s Chick?
Pat Hutchins
Hodder Children’s Books
This is most assuredly a long-awaited, much anticipated sequel to the classic Rosie’s Walk – one of my all time favourite picture books – and its story is told in many more than its progenitor’s thirty-two words, (though with a patterned text it’s ideal, like Rosie’s Walk, for beginner readers).
Forty-seven years later, Rosie’s egg has well and truly hatched but the baby chick seems to have gone missing. Off goes Rosie to search … under the hen house,

 

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in the basket, behind the wheelbarrow, across the fields (some pretty precarious balancing involved here),

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through the straw (likewise)

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but no sign of her little one – to Rosie that is. Of course, following close behind her all the while is her baby chick, but it takes her farmyard companions to make her see this.
Then it’s off for a walk together, Rosie and chick side by side. Ahhh! (Great to see those beehives again.)

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Using the same colour palette as for Rosie’s Walk, Pat Hutchins has created another set of gorgeous scenes, more richly and densely patterned than before, full of that sparkling humour and with some old friends still lurking in the background. What more can one ask?
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful: And certainly worth the incubation period.

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Have You Seen My Monster?
Steve Light
Walker Books
Geometric shapes abound in this follow up to Have You Seen My Dragon? This time we join a little girl as she searches the fairground, (a map is provided in the end papers), for her missing monster – a furry, friendly looking creature. It’s a search that encompasses amazing rides,

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all manner of stalls, exhibits, competitions, a hall of mirrors, animals, musicians

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and more – pretty much all the fun of the fair.
Each spread introduces a shape; and what amazing variety – not only do we have the common or garden rectangle, hexagon,

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oval, square, kite, triangle, circle and crescent that many a young child is familiar with, but also octagon, rhombus, quatrefoil, trapezium, parallelogram, curvilinear triangle,

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heptagon, trapezoid, pentagon, nonagon, ellipse, decagon – exciting words that can be painlessly absorbed in the context of a fun story.
Light’s illustrations, executed in pen and ink are full of interesting details and despite being coloured on the cover, the chief characters are also depicted in black and white throughout the story, with just a splash of colour used for the specific shape featured on each spread. This serves to highlight the shape, making it the eye’s first focus. So, a double delight: A search for the (supposed) missing monster (and that’s of course part of the shared joke between author and audience) and a mathematical exploration for other shapes like the named shape, (or previously named shapes) in the details of each illustration.

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Numbers, Counting and Dragons

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The Hueys in None the Number
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Those ovoid characters, the Hueys are back and this time they have a mathematical poser. The problem essentially is this: “Is none a number?

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So begins a numerical discourse wherein one is added to none and so on until the two conversing reach double figures.

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Spectacular, when they’re all together, remarks one of the pair and goes on to say, ”But when you take them all away … you get NONE.” No prizes for guessing what the other one says in response… (there are four words in the sentence and it’s a question.)

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Here we go again!

Each counting number is illustrated in Jeffers’ own wonderfully quirky style and an explanatory sentence, seemingly spoken by the Huey who has adopted the teaching role, is written beneath, above or alongside the picture as a caption, together with the corresponding number printed large. Wait a minute though, there’s more to it than that: every illustration is a small story in itself with lots to explore and discuss: take number 5 for instance where readers can help Rupert choose himself a hat,

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or number 8 where a party gift is the object of a guessing game.
This hilarious book is simply brimming over with potential – mathematical, story-telling, artistic and more.
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Have You Seen My Dragon?
Steve Light
Walker Books
Starting from a hotel entrance, a small boy searches high and low for his lost dragon – all over the city in fact. As he moves around he ponders on the possibility of discovering said dragon in a variety of unlikely places such as on the bus,

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quenching his thirst up on the water towers,

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at the book stall,

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on the underground even. Having made a thorough (so he thinks) search, the dragon’s owner comes back to the place where he’d supposedly left him and lo and behold, what is that sitting up on a roof in lantern bedecked China Town?

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In fact what really seems to be happening is that the dragon is leading the boy on a journey of exploration around the city.
Steve Light has used a minimal text to narrate the story told mostly through his finely detailed, mainly black and white illustrations.
This fascinating book is also of course, rich with opportunities for counting, not only the particular items in the captions but also the people, cars, buildings, architectural features and much more besides.
Children will love spotting where the dragon has hidden himself on each spread and I envisage many being inspired to make maps and their own detailed drawings of particular features or indeed a whole city – real or imagined.
A group might even try using the map as a starting point and collaborating to build a three dimensional model.
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Once Tashi Met a Dragon
Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg illustrated by Kim Gamble
Allen & Unwin Murdoch Books
There’s a dragon that is responsible for bringing the rains; that’s what the inhabitants of Tashi’s village all believe even though they don’t agree on where he lives; and, as his grandma tells him, that dragon is busy, “Cooking up rain, big lashing whooping roaring rains that wash away all the dirt and dullness of the year, and make the air sparkle like a million diamonds.
One year though, the dragon does not appear – there’s a terrible drought and outbreak of fires. Tashi determines to find out what has become of this ancient dragon.
Thus begins his adventure involving a white tiger, a visit to a golden palace and a story

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and singing session with a sad little dragon whose mother is in a deep, demon-induced sleep.
As a result, the rain-bringing dragon is awoken, Tashi is granted a wish for his troubles, the dragon opens her mouth, blows wispy dragon words and down comes the rain at last.

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Thereafter, the young hero is flown back to his awaiting Grandmother in his newly greened village home.
If you haven’t come across Tashi before then this book is a good introduction to the bold, fearless little fellow who is always ready to take on new challenges. His adventures are recounted with lashings of figurative language and atmospheric watercolour pictures and make for interesting story sessions.
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