No-Bot the Robot’s New Bottom!

No-Bot the Robot’s New Bottom!
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Simon & Schuster

Bernard the robot, aka No-Bot, is back with a new botty but now again it seems to be giving him trouble. Not however by its absence; rather there are all manner of strange sounds apparently emanating from his rear as he plays on the park equipment with his pals.

Bernard is surprised until he turns his head to discover what looks like his very own, potentially explosive bum.

Bear decides it needs removing which leaves our robot pal in a bot-less state once more.

Reassuringly his friends are ready and willing to assist in finding a replacement but it’s not an easy task as they soon discover, for the bot needs to satisfy certain criteria – right colour, appealing smell, comfortable for sitting

and not too heavy. Will Monkey, Bear, Dog and the birds ever find a bot that it just right or is Bernard to remain in a permanent state of bottomlessness?

Finally, it appears Bernard isn’t the only one having bottom trouble …

Like the first No-bot story this one is delightfully daft and full of the kind of humour that definitely appeals to little ones. Yet again team Sue and Paul have a winner with this one; I certainly know a fair few fans who will be keen to get their hands on it.

Egg

Egg
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnett
Macmillan Children’s Books

Team Hendra and Linnet (of Supertato fame) have created something delightfully different with their terrific tale of an upside down egg. And, they tell this tale with but a single 3-letter word and a sequence of delEGGtable illustrations.

Here’s what takes place. Into a group of pointy topped, bulging bottomed ‘normal’ eggs, comes our upside downer. The group members are at pains to point out how an egg ‘ought’ to look …

but undaunted, the newcomer proceeds to demonstrate its skills with some clever moves.

These seem to impress the others, so they decide to adorn it …

But this new look turns out to be merely temporary: our upside-downer has something else on its mind here and it looks like a lot of fun. Hopefully not of the shell-shattering sort, however.

Hang on though – might that mean that it’s fine to be an ‘invert’? Acceptance at last? Maybe; but that’s not quite the end of the story …

Accepting and celebrating difference are at the yolk of this Eggstraordinary book that will have you cracking up with laughter.

If you want an Easter offering that will last and last, way beyond the bank holiday, then Egg is the perfect treat. I’m certainly going to be giving a few.

Oh, Christmas Tree! / The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas / Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oh, Christmas Tree!
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Macmillan Children’s Books

There’s seasonal silliness in abundance in team Sue and Paul’s rhyming tale of a Christmas tree that doesn’t want to be. Said Tree is determined not to be dressed in baubles, tinsel and other festive fripperies so it decides to take a stand; or rather it decides to do anything but. Instead it’s dashing madly away from its decorative pursuers.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not Christmas the tree hates, rather it’s the idea of being instead of doing that’s really needling its branches.

“I truly love Christmas” asserts the tree and the idea of presents is appealing and that’s what gives Belle an idea. A new outfit might just suit the occasion especially if it equips the recipient to participate in winter sports. But perhaps there’s more to Belle’s clever gift than meets the eye …

The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas
Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey
Egmont

With the seemingly never waning enthusiasm a certain section of the population has with unicorns, I have a feeling there’s an inevitability about this book.

Narrated by a character who is pretty close to those I refer to, clad in her unicorn onesie a bright eyed miss starts the countdown informing readers that on the first day of Christmas she receives, courtesy of mum and dad, along with 1 sparkling tree, ‘a real-life unicorn’.

From then on, said unicorn is included in the festive giving both as giver and receiver of surprise presents. Unsurprisingly with a high-spirited unicorn on the scene there are a few mishaps as the days go by

and the creature begins to lose some if its sparkle. Come Christmas morning though a big surprise awaits him …

With her zesty illustrations that offer plenty of things to count, Ada Grey captures the inherent humour in Timothy’s telling ensuring a giggle at every page turn of this festive romp.

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas
Lou Carter and Nikki Dyson
Orchard Books

It’s Christmas Eve and as usual Oscar the Unicorn is hungry, exceedingly so. He’s already started scoffing the stockings belonging to the royals, not to mention a large part of the Christmas tree and to Santa’s horror he’s had a go at the presents too. Then shock horror Santa discovers that the magic reindeer food has disappeared

and without food the creatures won’t be able to fly, which means Santa can’t complete his delivery round. I love Nikki’s exuberant scenes of Oscar’s chaos creating frolics and especially the sight of the far from happy reindeer on the final spread.

But we know where that food has gone; so perhaps little Princess Oola’s suggestion for a substitute sleigh puller might just save the special day.

Delightfully daft but Oscar’s fans will relish it for sure.

Christopher Pumpkin

Christopher Pumpkin
Sue Hendra, Paul Linnet and Nick East
Hodder Children’s Books

Who or what would you ask for assistance if you were wanting to throw the scariest ever, totally unforgettable party? Perhaps not a pile of almost forgotten cooking ingredients that just happen to be lying on your kitchen floor; but then you are not a witch with a magic wand like the one in Sue and Paul’s crazy magical rhyming tale.

This witch decides to spell a heap of pumpkins into life, name them – Gnarly, Grizzly, Grunty, Roar, Snaggletooth, Stink Face and err – well she never gets to give a name to the last one for he cheerily informs her that he’s called Christopher Pumpkin and invites his fellow pumpkins to a group hug.

Can this thoroughly ill-fitting, non-scary animated member of the pumpkin fraternity possibly fit in with the witch’s scarifying plans? She decides to give him the benefit of the doubt, albeit while keeping her beady eyes upon him.

Task one is to create decorations that will bring dread and fear into all who so much as glance at them.
Easy peasy thinks Chris but the witch and other veggies are let’s say, underwhelmed. They’re equally unimpressed with Chris’s musical proposition …

So what about the party fare? Of course it’s cooked up in the cauldron and seems suitably disgusting until in walks our pal Chris proffering err, some pretty pink confections.

The witch gives the guy one more chance – be scary or be soup.

Can Chris come up with a scary solution before the following morning: he has just the hours of darkness to work something out or he’s in the pot.

Oddly enough, come morning, there’s an empty bed where Chris had been and the witch is ready to throw open the door to let her guests in …

Terrifically silly but terrific fun, this tale is perfect for showing little ones the importance of being themselves and not letting anyone push them around or make them into something they’re not.

It’s a smashing read aloud that slides and slithers over and off the tongue like yummy pumpkin soup. And as for Nick’s scenes of magic, mischief mayhem and the occasional menace, they’re a totally tasty treat to feast your eyes upon.

What’s not to love? Perhaps though, that rather depends on whether or not you have a penchant for things puffy, pretty and pink.

Simon Sock

Simon Sock
Sue Hendra, Paul Linnet and Nick East
Hodder Children’s Books

Simon lives in the sock drawer with all the other socks; it’s a cosy place but he feels lonely and unloved. All the other inhabitants go out on adventures and Simon longs to find the perfect friend to roller skate, bounce and hula hoop with; but, as Spotty tells him, Simon is odd.

Then Ted offers his help and thus begins Simon’s search for a stripy matching pair. He meets all manner of possible partners,

he certainly learns a lot and finally discovers Simone.

It turns out though, that his matching pair does not share his thirst for the great outdoors.

Poor Simon; is he doomed to a life without a partner or …

With Nick East’s captivating sock scenarios, this is funny story, about friendship, difference and preconceptions that will make listeners laugh and think; and the ending – yes it is a happy one – will bring delight and a definite feel good factor.
It might even work as a book to give to a significant other on February 14th.

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The Turkey That Voted For Christmas / Evil Pea Rules

The Turkey that Voted for Christmas
Madeliene Cook and Samara Hardy
Oxford University Press

Christmas is an overwhelming no-no when it comes to a certain sector of the residents of Pear Tree Farm, all except Timmy Turkey that is. To the horror of his family, he really wants a dose of the festive fun but in the face of so many determined NO voters what’s a young turkey to do?
Seemingly there’s only one thing – hold a ‘Christmas’ election. First though he needs to canvas support among the other animals to see which will join his Christmas party.

Christmas Eve dawns and it’s time for votes to be cast but what will the result be?
Are the turkeys to be stuffed at last or can it perhaps be a win/win scenario despite the outcome of the poll?
A crazy Christmas offering stuffed with nutty puns and served up by the team who created The Mouse That Cancelled Christmas.

Evil Pea Rules!
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Simon & Schuster

Evil Pea is back and raring to go with his dastardly doings once again. Not content with being ruler of the freezer, he’s determined to take over the whole supermarket with a particularly chilling plan.
With his arch-enemy Supertato duly dealt with, the pesky pea thinks he’s well on the way to supermarket supremacy

but he’s reckoned without the cold-busting power of the chillies.
From its sparkly cover, there’s a decidedly seasonal feeling where this latest Supertato adventure is concerned; so pervasive is it that even Pea finds himself bound to join in with the festivities.
Fans of the series will relish this icy offering, which may well garner additional followers tempted by the arresting cover.

Halloween Briefing: Monsters Galore and a Witch or two

There’s a Monster in Your Book
Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
Puffin Books
Here we have one of those interactive picture books that are in vogue at the moment and it comes from the co-writer of The Dinosaur That Pooped series.
The book is invaded by a rather cute-looking little monster that seems intent on wrecking the whole thing. ‘Let’s try to get him out,’ suggests the narrator which is clearly a good idea.
Readers are then asked to shake, tickle, blow, tilt left, then right, wiggle and spin the book, turning the page after each instruction. All the while the monster lurches this way and that around a plain background looking far from delighted at the treatment being meted out to him.
None of this succeeds in dislodging the creature but he’s definitely feeling dizzy so loud noises come next; then even louder ones.

This works but ‘Now he’s in your room!’ That’s even worse than being contained within the pages, at least from the reader’s viewpoint, so now the idea is to gently coax him back into the book. There he can stay while receiving some tender head stroking and a soft ‘goodnight’ until he falls fast asleep. Ahh!
With Greg Abbott’s cute, rather than scary monster, this is a fun book to share with pre-schoolers particularly just before their own shut-eye time; all that shaking and shouting will likely tire them out making them feel just like this.

SHHHH!

Ten Creepy Monsters
Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Here’s a gigglesome twist on the nursery countdown featuring a mummy, a witch, a ghost, a werewolf, a vampire and others who, having gathered ‘neath a gnarled pine’ begin to disappear until only one remains. But what sort of creepy monster is that? Be prepared for a surprise.
Trick or treaters, if mock scary ghastly ghouls are your Halloween thing then look no further than this gently humorous, little paperback offering.

Scary Hairy Party!
Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Monster’s having a party; it’s at 3 o’clock and all her friends are invited. Fortunately they’ve just got time to nip into Raymond’s salon for a hairdo first.
Seemingly Raymond’s not on top form however, as one after another receives a style disaster.

What on earth is Monster going to say when she sets eyes on her pals with their new make-overs?
Light-hearted rhyming fun illustrated with crazy, brighter than bright scenes of barnet mayhem: just right for those youngsters who like their Halloween stories to be on the silly, rather than the spooky side.

The Pomegranate Witch
Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler
Chronicle Books
A deft rhyming text, imbued with spookiness and replete with rich language, tells a tale of how five children desperate for a pomegranate from the witch’s tree, and armed with all manner of unlikely implements, do battle with its owner to get their hands on a tasty treat from its branches. A veritable Pomegranate War is waged …

until finally, one of children succeeds in bagging the object of their desires and they each have a share of the spoils.
The following day, Halloween, a Kindly Lady (the witch’s sister) appears to offer cider and a celebratory surprise fruit to all the town’s children: ‘And not one child wondered who was who, or which was which. / The shy old Kindly Lady or the Pomegranate Witch.’
Surely they couldn’t be one and the same – or could they?
Not for the very youngest listeners but a fun read aloud for KS1 audiences. As your listeners savour Denise Doyen’s story, make sure you allow plenty of time to enjoy Eiiza Wheeler’s delightfully quirky ink and watercolour illustrations.

For older solo readers:

Witch Snitch
Sibéal Pounder, illustrated by Laura Ellen Andersen
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The (Witch Wars) Sinkville witches are preparing for Witchoween and it’s the first Tiga will experience. This is especially exciting as Peggy has asked her and Fran to make a documentary about the town’s most famous witches. With Fluffanora acting as fashion adviser, what more could she ask?
This book with its numerous activities, facts and character information as part and parcel of the narrative, is sure to make you giggle. So too will Laura Ellen Andersen’s line drawings.

Four Silly Skeletons / Boo! Haiku

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Four Silly Skeletons
Mark Sperring and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Meet the silly skeleton quartet: there’s Fred, Sid, Belle an Bill, residents of a hill-top house, while down below at the foot of the same hill lives their sweet-natured Auntie June with Skellybones, her cat. The four young’uns get up to all manner of shenanigans and it’s down to their aunt to set their wrongs to right.
One dark night when the sky is full of stars and the young skellies full of energy, off they shimmy down the hill,

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only to be halted in their tracks by Auntie June clutching a large bag full of lamps and other lights and warning of the darkness on the hill. But do those four sillies pay heed to her concerns? Oh dearie me, no: what’s the need for extra light when the moon’s big and bright, they say. But that’s before they come upon this …

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which results in a hurtling, spinning, screaming drop that ends in bone-scattering disaster. So it’s just as well that Auntie June has heard their wails and come to their aid, and just happens to have a large pot of sticky stuff with her; sticky stuff that is just the thing for some hasty repairs.

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Now let that be a lesson to those full-moon frolickers.
Told in rowdy, bone rattling rhyme and illuminated by Sue Hendra’s super skeleton scenes of mischief and mayhem, this is just the thing for a Hallowe’en romp.

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Boo! Haiku
Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea
Abrams Appleseed
In this follow up to the Guess Who, Haiku are a host of mock-scary frights to delight! Starting with ‘broom across the moon/ pointed hat at the window/ hair-raising cackle’ children are asked to guess who. There’s a small visual clue below the text in addition to the haiku and the answer is revealed when the page is turned.

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The subject then presents another haiku to listeners and so on through traditional Hallowe’en-associated items – a bat, a skeleton, a pumpkin (jack-o’lantern), a ghost and so on and finally –

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The last page provides information about the haiku form and syllabification; and I particularly like the reference to ‘an element of play’.
This cries out for audience participation and is great to share with preschool children who will be honing their listening skills while having fun.

Cat Capers

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Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat
Emily MacKenzie
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In this follow-up to her splendid book-stealing Ralfy Rabbit, Emily MacKenzie provides another furry character with an unlikely preoccupation: marmalade cat Stanley is a fanatical knitter. He hones his craft not in chasing mice or dogs but in flexing his paws and clicking his needles to create all manner of wonderful objects: those pompoms are pretty cool (or should that be warm?), the bathtime bobble hats, ditto and then there are those tail cosies conjured up at the supermarket.

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Stanley’s pals were the lucky recipients of his craftsmanship: the balaclava-sporting bunnies looked wonderful, as did all the other woolly wearing animals.

 

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Until the day Stanley spots a poster …

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From then on, all Stanley’s energy, not to mention wool is focused on a single enterprise and nothing can stop him till – uh no! has Stanley come to the end of his chances of winning?

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But even that doesn’t stop the determined moggie as he embarks – to his friends’ chagrin, on operation unravel …

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When the day of the competition dawns, Stanley’s pals gather (sans woolies) at the venue but where is the great competitor himself? Seemingly he has thoughts other than victory on his mind after all;

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but in his efforts to make recompense to his friends, have Stanley’s prize-winning plans unravelled altogether, or does he still have a chance at the grand prize?
To discover the answer, you’ll have to get your mitts on a copy of this wacky, winning tale.

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Double Dave
Sue Hendra and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
Rotund moggie Dave returns in another crazy tale and this time he has something of an identity crisis: who, or what is this Dave-like creature that’s sleeping in his bed and consuming his meals?

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And moreover, trying to take his friends .

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There’s only one thing for the indomitable Dave to do: unmask the imposter and prove himself worthy of the name Dave. That however seems to be somewhat more difficult than he (and Bug) have anticipated; but in the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating or should that be its gaseous after effects …

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Doubtless Dave will please his already established fans, and gain a few new ones too, with this comical windy caper.

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Surprising Christmases with Slug, Reindeer & Frankie

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Norman the Slug Who Saved Christmas
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Whoever heard of a slug celebrating Christmas; well you’re about to hear of exactly that and more for this crazy tale tells how one, Norman by name (of Silly Shell fame) actually pitches in and averts a seasonal disaster. But that’s to come. We first encounter Norman as he’s tucked up in bed eagerly anticipating a visit from Father Christmas – he’d been a truly good slug after all. Then, down the chimney descends , not Santa but …

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Surely Norman cannot have been that good? No, certainly not; in fact not one of the presents therein is for him. Time to get those slug ideas flowing and put those special slug skills to good use, decides Norman and that is just what he does: sticky tape of course is no problem but who/what is going to pull that cleverly constructed sleigh? …

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And how is Norman going to get that Shelby family’s sack up onto the roof and down their chimney?

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Well, we’ve all talked of snail mail but Norman’s method is something altogether unexpected and genius on his part:

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but quick Norman, you have to hide before those Shelby children appear on the scene.
You can probably guess what he does about that but I’d hate to steal his thunder so either take a guess, or much better, get hold of a copy of this comical Christmas caper and then share it with some under 6s.
Love the story: love this problem solving, divergent thinking mollusc, and love Paul Linnet’s portrayal of same.

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Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise
Ursula Dubosarsky and Sue deGennaro
Allen & Unwin Children’s Books
With occasional, gentle echoes of Clement Clark Moore, Ursula Dubosarsky’s text bounces along on its Reindeer hooves as the chief protagonist sets out delivering gifts to his friends. First there’s Cat …

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followed by Dog …

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and finally, shopkeeper Guinea Pig …

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Thereafter Reindeer tootles back to the comfort of his cosy armchair for a nice rest and a glass of iced chocolate. Perfect albeit decidedly lonely. But not for long: his snooze is rudely interrupted by a terrible racket – what could it be?
Without spoiling the happy ending, let’s just say Reindeer’s heart is full and he’s lonely no longer.
I love the way the story ends with an open-ended question for readers and young listeners to ponder over

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Here’s Emmanuelle deep in thought over just that …

and discuss.
With its gently humorous, delightfully detailed pictures, this heart-warming antipodean tale is definitely one to enjoy this Christmas. And not just for its sunny, summery scenes.

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Frankie’s Magic Football: The Great Santa Race
Frank Lampard
Little Brown
Soccer fanatics Frankie and his trusty team are on a mission: to make Christmas a white one. But nobody wants an everlasting snowy winter; so can they deal with the evil penguin accidentally awoken when the magic football, kicked by Kevin crash lands in Mr Harris’s front garden? Emperor Frostie, for that is the penguin’s name, is determined to create this winter that never ends, not only in their very own town, but right across the whole world. One thing is certain, first, they have to find the whereabouts of Kevin and deal with the tricky problem of his rescue. It looks like a football match is in the offing … Frostie’s team versus Frankie’s.
Assuredly, another action-packed adventure for fans and a seasonal one at that.

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Solutions for Alan and Barnaby

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I Need a Wee!
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Simon & Schuster pbk
Alan, the lovable blue bear depicted on the cover of this book is determined to have fun, no matter what. And the ‘what’ makes itself obvious almost from the start of the story: it’s the need for a wee. A need that grows more and more urgent as Alan insists on having another go on the helter-skelter, stopping to buy a balloon and partaking of Claude’s birthday cake. Finally Alan and friends reach the loos and guess what –there’s a long queue. Dolly offers the use of her toilet but it’s too “teeny tiny” so Alan looks elsewhere.

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but the Magic Rabbit is having none of it. Things are getting pretty desperate when Alan makes a dash up the steps and behind a curtain – so he thinks but then he discovers he’s actually on stage where his energetic efforts to control his bladder are rewarded with a large golden trophy

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and he knows just what to do with that; so why is he saying that he still needs a wee?
With its luminous cover, charming cast of characters colourfully illustrated and tension-building text, this one should certainly make under fives (and those who have dealings with them) laugh.

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A Monster’s Moved In!
Timothy Knapman and Loretta Schauer
Little Tiger Press
Monsters come in all shapes and sizes: the one that’s referred to in the title of this rainy day story is roughly child-sized and green. He arrives as a result of Barnaby’s den building activity and his somewhat foolish (in the light of what then happens) utterance, “Sometimes I wish a monster WOULD move in!” Before you can say, “I don’t believe it!” which is what young Barnaby does in fact say, there, clutching what looks like a packed lunch box, is Burple. Burple heads straight for Barnaby’s den and the boy, joins him. ‘BIG MISTAKE!’ In less time than you can say to yourself, “He seems harmless,” for that is just what our young protagonist does, Burple has started producing ear-splitting howls. Moreover, the contents of his lunch box has escaped and is hell bent on consuming Barnaby’s den.

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Ideas are needed and Barnaby suddenly has a good one. Some imaginative activities proceed, some rather too imaginative

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until at last the rain stops and boy and monster head to the park for some outdoor pursuits.

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At the end of the day, both declare it’s been their best ever day. And the following one – well, that would be telling.
Monsters, den building, imaginative play, tree climbing – just the kind of things young children love. Put them altogether in a slightly crazy, laugh-inducing story and illustrate it with verve and vigour, and just a touch of cuteness, and the result is a book with enormous appeal for those around the age of the chief protagonist, and I suspect, monsters.

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Over Indulgence with The Little Princess & Dave

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Dolci and Ellena enjoying The Little Princess’s antics

I Feel Sick!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Most adults and many children will be familiar with the stunt the Little Princess pulls in her latest story and it’s one wherein she really gets her comeuppance.
Despite feeling as fit as a fiddle, the little madam feigns sickness when asked to do something she doesn’t want to. The thought of school seems to bring on the worst attacks although the Queen takes some convincing and the doctor certainly isn’t fooled.

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Having played the sickness card on several occasions, the Little Princess is in the throes of a very bad attack of nausea when through the door comes a party invitation. An instant cure of course. Off she goes to Molly’s party where she over indulges in party food, then after games and a lot of dancing …
Serves you right, Little Princess.
As always the expressions – both child and adult – are spot on and there’s a guaranteed laugh or rather two, at every turn of the page.
A certain winner.

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Dave’s Breakfast Blast Off!
Sue Hendra and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Herein we have a feline character who, rather than being a doer, is done to.
When an empty breakfast bowl confronts marmalade tom Dave, notorious for his large appetite and erupting rear, something has to be done. It’s fortunate then that Bug just happens along and suggests, ‘Let’s go out for breakfast!
With assistance from Squirrel, Hedgehog, Mouse and Bird, Dave is finally over the fence and into the property next door. There he finds all manner of breakfasts intended for Budgie, Hamster, Rabbit

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and many more, all of which Dave samples. But the combination of fish food, seeds, carrots, flies, leaves and smelly socks has a rather disturbing effect on Dave’s tum. So, when confronted by an angry canine whose breakfast is latterly weighing rather heavy in said stomach, Dave can do nothing to stop the rear-end eruption: an eruption that blasts him into the air

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and back to his own territory just in the nick of time for his lunch.
This, the second story to feature Dave has a new illustrator in Lee Wildish who brings a fresh vibrancy with a variety of perspectives and provides hilarious scenes with lots of deliciously witty details.
For those who love toilet humour – and that’s most young children – this one will be a resounding success.
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Don’t forget February 14th isibgdposterlarge

Holidays Far and Near

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Wanda and the Alien Go Camping
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Wanda and her alien pal embark on their fourth adventure – camping. Their camp site however, is not the original earthly one planned; that’s far too wet and rainy. Instead the alien takes Wanda in his space rocket to his planet and it’s there they set out to find a suitable place to pitch their tent. Even that however, doesn’t match up to expectations, certainly not Wanda’s anyhow. She finds fault with all the possible spots they visit –

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too noisy, too quiet, too wild. Oh dear, can it be that the alien’s planet is entirely unsuitable too. But what about those clouds up above; could they possibly fit the bill?
Seemingly so.

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Cloud camping is just perfect; they can invite their other friends and the rain will not interfere at all.
One cannot help admiring the alien’s perseverance and Wanda’s endeavours not to hurt her best friend’s feelings. Indeed the sight of Wanda and her alien friend always brings a smile to my face, as in my experience, it does to many a preschooler. Here, I am sure the multitudes of aliens in alien city with their Day-Glo striped apparel and varying number of eyes, and the cloud camping possibilities will particularly appeal.
Sue Heap’s delightful images are just the thing to stimulate some modeling activities with coloured soft dough, ‘Fimo’ or similar; don’t forget the googly eyes though.
Buy from Amazon

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I Heart Holidays
Clara Vulliamy
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This is a happy book all about MARTHA – that’s me! Come and see my BRILLIANT new suitcase!

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Who can resist these opening lines of the third story featuring Martha and her bunny brothers. Young Martha is busy packing all manner of items into her case in preparation for her seaside holiday and finally the entire family is ready.

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Off they go in Bluebell, their camper van and after a long tedious journey it’s on with those swimming togs and a mad dash for the sea. Brrr! Not for long though; Pip objects strongly so Martha devises another activity and then it’s time for a picnic lunch – with the obligatory sandy sandwiches. Time to go in the sea now? More objections from Pip so …
After lunch there’s burying Dad in the sand,

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ice-creams, the starry sunglasses rescue operation and a sandcastle building competition with the inevitable trashing and then finally … our young narrator has had enough. She heads seawards – alone. Not for long though for pretty soon (despite the downpour) those pesky bunny brothers have joined her for a glorious romp and guess what:
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I love the retro VW camper van, the shell face (so typical of young children),

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the portrayal of Dad being covered in sand, the exuberance of Martha and her brothers when the sun finally shines … pretty much everything that Clara Vulliamy has included in this seaside romp.
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Catch That Plane!
Sally Sutton and Sylvie Currin Korankova
Walker Books
We join a family in holiday frenzy as they rush to the airport, chase to check-in, dash to departures,

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scoot through security, trot down the travelator, jog down the aerobridge and finally, board their plane.

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Then it’s a peep through the window, buckle up that seat belt, engines roaring, racing down the runway and they’re off up … up… away! The holiday has well and truly started.
There are echoes of Walking in the Jungle, albeit at a faster pace, in this first person account by a boy setting off on his holiday with his Mum, Dad and younger sister. It’s probably more narrative information that a real story but there’s plenty to interest here with the sights and sounds of the airport and the playful, jaunty rhyme, plentiful alliteration and more. And, just in case it isn’t obvious from the context, there is a final ‘Facts’ spread explaining the terms used in the text.
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Animals and a Vegetable

 

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Dolci and her mum enjoy the story together

Fiddlesticks!
Sean Taylor and Sally Anne Garland
Simon and Schuster pbk
Mouse’s house is perfect – well almost. There’s just a slight slope to one of the windows. Easily fixed, thinks Mouse but not so; he can’t reach up far enough. “FIDDLESTICKS!” Surely big, strong Bear can help though – oops!

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One broken window… “FIDDLESTICKS and RATS!” But Squirrel is an ace climber and woodworker … Oh no! …With flood water to contend with, filthy footprints all over the kitchen wall (courtesy of Otter), a gaping hole in the roof – Moose’s offering, Mouse’s house is pretty near wrecked.

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Time to bale out; off goes a distraught Mouse.
Meanwhile as the day progresses those destroyers have become creators and by sundown, when our little friend decides to return to his wreck of a home, he’s in for a big surprise.

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Those pals of yours have done an amazing job, just keep your paws off that door, little Mouse,
The author says he was inspired to write this amusing story when listening to Flanders and Swann’s The Gas Man Cometh. The slightly understated telling certainly works well and the built-in repetition and cumulative nature of Mouse’s expletives delight young listeners. So too do Sally Anne Garland’s cute illustrations executed in muted shades of blues, greens, browns, pinks and greys; and the whole thing is printed on high quality paper – an added bonus.
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A Day with the Animal Mechanics
Sharon Rentta
Alison Green Books pbk
Young Dylan Basset’s big day has arrived. He’s off to help his Dad at the garage he owns. When he arrives he sees the mechanics already hard at work; there’s so much to learn,

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things like how to use the car wash. So why is it that the hot afternoon is so quiet – not a single customer. Then… time to get moving Animal mechanics; grab the spare tyres, spanners, a snack and off you go. What a jam they discover on the coast road, all because a huge lorry up front has shed its load of boxes. It’s not only the cars that are overheating the mechanics find, so it’s fortunate that young Dylan decides to investigate the contents of the spilt cargo …

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Guess who gets the vote for best mechanic that day. Now you’ve all earned a refreshing seaside dip too…
Rich in detail, with plenty to amuse, explore and absorb, this latest episode with the Animal work force is sure to please young audiences and those who share the book with them.
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Cheese Belongs To You
Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books pbk
Starting once again with a simple scenario, the creator of the brilliant There are Cats in this Book and There are No Cats in this Book has co-created a hilarious, totally brilliant, crazy story concerning the ownership of cheese, or rather, one particular, holey chunk of the stuff. Rat Law has it that, if any rat has the cheese, that rat is the owner of same –

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unless that is, a bigger, quicker, stronger, scarier, hairier or even a dirty rat (especially a gang boss), wants it. Which rodent eventually gets to partake of that cheese though?

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All manner of rats, and potentially extremely dodgy situations have been entertained with verve and vigour in reds and greys (the cheese though is a glowing yellowy orange) and through co-creator Alexis Deacon’s wonderfully clever, cumulative text.
There is so much to explore and discuss herein that I guarantee sharing it with a class of 4s to 7s will keep everyone engaged for ages; begin with the cover and cheesy endpapers and just FOLLOW THAT CHEESE! With its cleverly inbuilt repetition, this book is perfect for learner readers too.
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Catch that Crocodile!
Anushka Ravishankar and Pulak Biswas
Tara Books pbk
Herein, it takes a young fish-seller, Meena to solve the problem of how to deal with the jaw-snapping reptile that Falguni Fruit-seller discovers in a ditch. And, what’s more she does so in an entirely non-violent manner

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(luring it back to the river with a trail of her wares). That of course is after the likes of Probin Policeman, Doctor Dutta and wrestler Bhayanak Singh have all attempted to do their worst to the croc and definitely come off second best.

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With its clever, eye-catching typography, folk-style illustrations that look almost like woodcuts and catchy rhyme, this is good fun to read aloud with small groups of children who will need to be able to look closely at the pictures to get the most from the story.
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Supertato
Sue Hendra
Simon and Schuster pbk
Whoever heard of a superhero spud? I certainly hadn’t prior to seeing Sue Hendra’s latest offering. Said superspud is hot on the trail of one dastardly pea that has got loose from the freezer and caused all kinds of suffering among the inhabitants of the vegetable section of the supermarket.

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Supertato’s search sends him creeping through the cakes, the cheese and the cans but just as he’s about to grab his prey, he finds himself plunging into the icy depths of the freezer above which the pea lurks wielding a spud masher.

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Is our superhero destined to become mere mash? Not quite but it’s a pretty close call.
Hmm! What’s that green spherical object in the jelly?
Totally crazy but there’s something rather appealing about a spud with superpowers careering around a supermarket at night.
The bright, almost brash colours of the produce and their surroundings make for suitably eye-catching scenes and the playful language adds spice to this tongue-in-cheek drama.
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Love and Friendship

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I Love You, Too!
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
Father Bear has finished Little Bear’s bedtime story but Little Bear does not want to sleep. Instead he tries some of delaying tactics, telling his dad how much he loves him in all kinds of ways. Dad reciprocates, out-loving Little Bear’s love each time until they complete a full circle of love and then a-a-a-a-h-h-h. It’s Dad who finally falls asleep. And his offspring? Having tucked Dad in, he picks up his book and starts reading it all over again …
It’s great to see a father/son bedtime story session.
Foreman’s watercolour illustrations are as alluring as ever; here, extending the text into playful scenes of the two bears having fun together, sometimes clad in their pyjamas and dressing gowns and other times wearing more appropriate apparel.

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Beautful to share at bedtime or any other time.
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Alex and Lulu Two of a Kind
Lorena Siminovich
Templar Publishing pbk
Can you be best friends despite having some very different interests?
That’s the question at the heart of this story featuring best pals, Alex, a lively adventurous dog and Lulu, a thoughtful, artistically minded cat. Of course they do have some common interests such as going to the park but it’s when they get there that their differences manifest themselves. Alex climbs trees and swings from high branches,; Lulu stays still observing ants, intending to paint them at home later. On the way home in the rain, Alex cannot resist splashing in all the puddles; Lulu hurries ahead keeping her feet dry. “..we are just SO different,” she remarks.
Back home Alex begins to wonder if they are too different to be best friends. There follows another day of differences and more worries for Alex.
Then it is down to Lulu to explain how differences can actually enrich and enhance their friendship. It’s a case of opposites attract, their bond of friendship is strong enough for all their differences.
Filled with bright colours, patterns and textures, Siminovich’s illustrations are immediately attractive. Her images are outlined with a thick black line making them stand out against the patterned backgrounds.

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A charming and reassuring exploration of friendship.
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Laika the Astronaut
Owen Davey
Templar Publishing
Laika, the first creature to be launched into space, has her story told and given an alternative ending by the wonderful artist. Owen Davey.
Taken from the Moscow streets as a stray, she, along with other dogs, was trained and tested to undertake the next step in the Soviet space programme intended to maintain their supremacy in the space race. In 1957, Laika was blasted off into space in a rocket and after only a few hours, her craft developed a fault and Laika perished. (Seemingly she would have done so even without this catastrophe, there being no means of returning her craft to earth anyway.)
Davey chooses a happier ending with the lonely Laika finding a new family to love and cherish her. His use of muted tones, stylized images and shadowy figures give a vintage feel to the scenes and it is Davey’s illustrations that are the strength of the book and what make it work seeking out.

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This fanciful story could be a good starting point for a space theme in a primary school with children then going on to research factual reports on the Laika story.
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Doug the Bug That Went Boing!
Simon & Schuster pbk
Sue Hendra
Doug the Bug is in trouble. Not only has he had a quarrel with his best pal Trevor while playing ball, but on top of that, he’s been unceremoniously separated from him by a large shovel. So, can he manage to find his way from atop the tower block back to Trevor and put things right with him? Assisted by a grateful fly, Doug finds himself having a thrilling time, narrowly missing falling into the loo before ‘boinging’ into all manner of strange places – a fried egg yolk, in a shower of pepper, a sponge cake, a pedal bin, even right through a slice of toast.

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But anything is worth a try so that he can get back to Doug and put things right with him.
Bright bouncy illustrations, with some hair-raising scenes, are part and parcel of this light-hearted, action-packed adventure.
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Miki and the Wishing Star
Stephen Mackey
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
In this, the third story about Miki, Penguin and Polar Bear, the three friends share a birthday and are celebrating together, each making a birthday wish. Penguin has first wish but this (to be the biggest penguin in all the world) results in all manner of challenging situations for the threesome. All ends happily however in this gentle, atmospheric tale of magic, wishing and friendship. Makey’s soft-focus illustrations have a dreamlike quality and it’s these that are the main strength of the book.
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Rules of Summer
Shaun Tan
Hodder Children’s Books
If you want to be challenged, made to think deeply and interpret, look, look and look again, then try this latest work of Shaun Tan. It’s dark and mysterious, disturbing even; and both simple and complex – a real paradox – leaving much to the imagination. Is it about rules, challenges, friendship?  Or perhaps all of these as seen through the eyes of one of the boys.
In Tan’s own words, it’s a picture book about the relationship between two boys who could be brothers or close friends whose friendship is tested by challenging situations.
He presents readers with a sequence of thirteen scenes of the two boys each with a single sentence beginning ‘Never …’ placed opposite a enigmatic illustration rendered in oil paints, that is open to interpretation.

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Never argue with an umpire.

After this are three wordless double spreads, two scenes each with a sentence beginning ‘Always…’ then one saying ‘Never miss the last day of summer.’,  a double wordless spread and a final ‘That’s it.’ set opposite a scene of the boys sitting together seemingly watching television.
Definitely a book that raises more questions than it answers and one that readers will respond differently to on each re-reading
I can envisage this book being discussed by groups of children/adults in both primary and secondary schools; indeed, each scene and accompanying text could form the basis of an enquiry.  Just what are those dark, sinister looking birds doing, for example.
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October Miscellany

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Aunt Amelia
Rebecca Cobb
Macmillan Children’s Books
Showing not telling is the name of the game in this charming and witty book. The two small children in the story are in a bad mood; Aunt Amelia is coming to look after them overnight. Mum and Dad leave her a list of instructions but fortunately for her charges, she interprets these instructions with a considerable degree of latitude.
It’s not surprising then that the youngsters are eager that their parents issue another invitation to come and stay very soon and moreover, they suggest she be left another of those ‘helpful’ lists of instructions.
What makes this story such a delight is what we are shown, rather than told what takes place while the parents are away. Rebecca Cobb’s watercolour, pencil and ink illustrations are executed with a child-like freshness and panache that is appealing to both adults and young children.
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Pigeon Pie
Debbie Singleton and Kristina Litten
Oxford University Press
It’s market day so life down on Farmer Budd’s farm is especially hectic. There are the cows to milk, the eggs to collect, cherries to be picked so Mrs Budd can bake cherry pies, and the remaining cherries to be protected from marauding birds. Then there are all the animals to be fed, the scarecrow needs a replacement hat and the milk and eggs have to be loaded into the trailer. Busy, busy busy; but oh dear! Farmer Budd has forgotten to close the gate to the cornfield. He’s forgotten too, that there is a goat in the next field. Before long the scarecrow is reduced to a pair of crossed sticks – the ideal perching place for five peckish pigeons with their sights set firmly on the corn. It’s fortunate for him then that a tiny chick has a clever plan in mind, a plan that involves telling the other farm animals about a special dish that Mrs Budd is preparing to serve that day; and it definitely is not cherry pie.
There is plenty to make you smile in this gently humorous story. Children love the way the pigeons are duped and delight in joining in with the repeated refrain, ‘Pigeon pie! Oh my! ‘ That – and of course – the burping opportunities.
Kristina Litten’s richly patterned, comical pictures abound with amusing details, in particular the antics of the bit part animal characters, the rat trio and the snail that are never mentioned but greatly add to the fun. Then there are those wacky pigeons with their red-rimmed eyes and ballooning bellies; the sight of them shooting up into the air when they spy what they think is the dreaded dish being prepared is a hoot.

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I really like the way the end papers are part of the story portraying the changing time from early morning when Farmer Budd fixes the FREE RANGE EGGS for sale notice to his fence at the front, to early evening when the sign indicates ‘sold out’ as the sun sinks below the horizon.
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Spider Sandwiches
Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk.
Do NOT accept Max’s invitation to tea or any other meal for that matter, unless like that green hairy monster, you have a penchant for all things disgusting. The things he dines on are sure to make your stomach heave; things like toenail scrambled eggs, grasshopper legs smoothie, cold, crunchy, cockroach curry or horror of horrors, squiggly spider sandwiches. Odd then that he turns his nose up at a relatively ordinary vegetarian soup with small, green spherical objects floating in it.
This rhyming litany of loathsome fare is one that will have your young audiences UGGGHHING, EWWWWW and YUCKING almost continuously as you read. And, they will love to feast their eyes on Sue Hendra’s suitably garish illustrations, which depict a series of satiating scenes. The supermarket for example, has shelves packed with an alluringly awful array of produce.
If you plan to read this aloud around Hallowe’en (or any time for that matter) I’d suggest making sure you can get your tongue around all those nasties first.
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Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten
Alison Murray
Nosy Crow
This is one of those pink, glittery covered books that are instantly attractive to many little girls. All too often though, such books fail to live up to their external sparkle. This one, and yes it does feature a little princess, proved to be an exception, and, that string bling does actually serve a purpose. What lifts Alison Murray’s book above most of its kind is her charming, retro illustrations with their fresh palette, gentle humour, and judicious use of pattern. I particularly enjoyed the scene with the balletic butler and the portrait of the princess on her prancing pony.

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Essentially the story, told in rhyme, revolves around Princess Penelope and the mischievous kitten that snatches one end of a ball of wool from the queen’s knitting basket and dashes off through the palace entangling almost everything in sight.
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Sugarlump and the Unicorn
Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books
Wishing and magic are the ingredients for former children’s laureate Julia Donaldson’s latest collaboration with What the Ladybird Heard artist Lydia Monks. The magic comes from a blue-eyed unicorn and the wishing is done by rocking horse, Sugarlump. He is happy rocking to and fro when the children are at home to ride him but when they go to school he has nothing to do. That’s when the wishing begins. He wants to be out in the big wide world. So, thanks to that unicorn and her flashing eyes he is able to try out all manner of horsey roles – a farm horse, a race horse and a circus horse; but then Sugarlump wants to go back home to the children. Time has passed though and the children have outgrown their once favourite toy. He makes another wish but fortunately, the unicorn is on hand again and she comes up with a much better one and Sugarlump finally finds somewhere in the world that is just perfect.
As one would expect from Julia Donaldson, the rhyming text reads aloud beautifully but this adult reader and some children among my audiences were rather brought up short by Sugarlump’s last request, “I wish I had never been born!” It proved a good talking point afterwards though.
Lydia Monks’ bold, bright, mixed media illustrations have a joie-de vie and sparkle even without the added glitter on every page.
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The Princess’ Blankets
Carol Ann Duffy and Catherine Hyde
Templar Publishing
The princess in this story can never get warm. The king promises that anyone able to stop his daughter feeling so cold, can have the reward of their choosing ‘even unto half his kingdom’. Intent on winning the princess as his prize, a cruel-eyed stranger covers her in turn with four blankets: the ocean’s blanket, the forest’s blanket, the mountain’s blanket and the earth’s blanket. All to no avail: despite his efforts, the beautiful princess remains as chilled as ever. Then a newcomer arrives, a musician with a flute and a good heart: just the heart to warm that of the princess as he fills her body with the beauty of his music, and his love.

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Lyrically told, this neo fairy tale has a pertinent message for our times: a message about mankind’s carelessness, greed and continuing destruction of our world. It is beautifully interpreted through Catherine Hyde’s powerfully atmospheric paintings, which orchestrate the story showing the changes brought about by the elemental blankets and finally, the power of love.
Not so much a picture book, more an illustrated story, with its longish text, this book is likely to have a wide appeal from primary age children to adults and one to return to over and over.
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Dragon Loves Penguin
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Baby penguin, Bib, lives in the land of ice and snow with his mummy and daddy. One bedtime as a delaying tactic he asks, ‘ “… can I have a story? The one about dragons.” ‘ So begins a tale of a dragon that wants an egg and an abandoned egg that needs a mummy. Perfect – or so it seems. Certainly the dragon loves her Little One and the Little One loves her. But, Little One’s appearance isn’t quite like that of the other recently hatched creatures; no flying, fire breathing or rock chewing. She doesn’t grow big and strong with a long neck and hard scaly covering. Rather she is slow, careful, small, fluffy and courageous – rather like a penguin. The others are showered with flashy gifts but Little One receives the best of all possible gifts; love and time.
Then one day all the big dragons have to leave their little ones and that’s when Little One is taunted by the small dragons and made to feel an outcast. So, feeling hurt, she takes himself off to be alone. However, things can happen for a reason… Little One suddenly feels her soft feathery body getting very, very hot; the volcano is alive. “FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!” he yells to the others and so they do, leaving Little One behind hotly pursued by the flames of the volcano. Fortunately for her though, she takes a tumble all the way to the bottom of the flaming mountain and what should she find waiting for her at the bottom? – an egg. And, thanks to her mummy, Little One knows just what to do…
Loving and being loved, being yourself and being different are all themes of this tender tale that moves between present and past, seamlessly uniting the two through the medium of story. For, Bib is the egg at the end of the bedtime story and Little One, his Mummy penguin.

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Debi Gliori’s charcoal and watercolour illustrations are glorious and beautifully convey the loving feelings that are a vital element of this book: the penguins and main dragon character are truly endearing.
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Herman’s Letters
Tom Percival
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
When your very best friend in the entire world moves far away, what do you do? Promise to write to one another and remain best friends forever.
That’s just what best pals Herman, a large brown bear, and Henry, a reddish raccoon resolve to do. Henry keeps his side of the bargain, writing often as promised and giving details of his new friends and the exciting things he’s been doing. But, his letters don’t make his old pal happy; instead he’s overcome with jealousy and begins to doubt the friendship. Poor old Herman.

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Eventually hibernation time draws close and he still hasn’t written.. Another Henry letter arrives; one that is much more reassuring and this one spurs Herman into a flurry of activity. He finally writes a letter and dashes off to post it right away. Oh no! The post office has closed for the winter. There is only one thing left for Herman to do – deliver that all-important letter by hand. Off he goes into the snow. But can he make that long, long journey before sleep overtakes him? Can he make it at all in fact?
With its realistic looking lift the flap letters and endearing characters, this book is a delight. Despite the inherent sadness of parting and feelings of loss, there is a gentle humour running throughout the whole thing. The sequence depicting Herman’s journey to deliver his letter into his friend’s hands is wonderful.

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The message (along with Herman’s snoring) comes across loud and clear: true friendship knows no bounds.
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Teachers wanting to stimulate children’s writing, I urge you to get hold of a copy of this and share it with the class group. Then turn an area of your classroom or nursery into Herman’s home with a letterbox another space into Henry’s. Add writing materials to each and start the enterprise going by writing a Henry letter of your own for the children to find.

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