The Mouse Before Christmas / Can’t Catch Santa!

Here are two festive books from Sunbird Books -thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

The Mouse Before Christmas
Tracey Turner and Jenny Lovlie
Sunbird Books

‘ ‘’Twas the night before Christmas, / when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring / … except for one mouse.’ So begins Tracey Turner’s mouse-themed tribute to Clement Clarke Moore wherein a tiny white mouse clad in a red fur-trimmed suit opens the action by giving a wink to readers and holds up a ‘ssh’-ing paw to his mouth before introducing his fellow mice all fast asleep. He then departs on his Christmas Eve delivery round in a small-scale sleigh, pulled by stag beetles portrayed in festive hues.

“On, Stiggy! On Twiggy! On, Scatter and Skitter! / Come, Snipper! Come, Skipper! Come Patter and Pitter!” he urges, guiding them down through the trees to a smooth landing in the snow instead of on a rooftop.
Then taking one of the sacks containing gifts for all, he heads for a house, leaving snowy mouse tracks (no boots for this Santa figure), entering via a crack in the wall and thence to a convenient mouse hole. Stockings are duly filled with Mouse toys and of course, lots of cheese as well as crackers. Then it’s back to the waiting sleigh, and with a flick of the reins, a squeak and a “Merry Christmas to all, / and to all a good night!” off he flies into the moonlit sky.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the original classic poem, this one with Jenny Lovlie’s mouse-centric setting complete with a cotton reel table, holding a candle, a thimble pot containing a decorated branch, mouse paperchains and a larger branch to which tiny stockings are affixed, is a delight. Cute and cosy but not overly so thanks to the wealth of humorous details, especially those Christmassy beetles.

Can’t Catch Santa!
Emily Cunningham and Steph Lew
Sunbird Books

It’s Christmas Eve, just the time to try and catch Santa: so says the canine narrator of this lift-the-flap board book. Santa however seems somewhat elusive as each seeming sighting of the jolly fellow turns out to be something altogether different – a bobble hat worn by a carol singer glimpsed through the window of the front door, it’s a snowman wearing the black wellies and so on. It’s not until several more spreads have been explored that Santa actually does make an appearance but when he does eventually do so, his would-be catcher isn’t quick enough to apprehend the jolly fellow. Still there’s always next year …

Slightly silly, but that’s all part of the fun that toddlers will enjoy, along with the festive spirit and the build-up.

Nook

Nook
Sally Anne Garland
Sunbird Books

This is a gentle, sweet tale that shows the empowering quality of the kindness of others.

Nook is a small, shy rabbit; she speaks little and prefers to stay in quiet spots with somewhere against which to press her back so she feels safe.

Her most favourite place of all is the deep hollow in an old elm tree, the ideal place from which to watch the other animals play. Try as they might to entice her out to join them, Nook prefers to keep her body feeling safe in her nook, but in spirit she’d be a participant in their games.

‘Nook’s place’ is what the hollow becomes known as, a place where other creatures know not to sit. Or rather, not quite all of them, for one day filling the hollow she finds …

The surly creature claims the space as his own, leaving Nook with welling tears and panic stricken.

Not for long however for her fear gives ways to surprise when the other animals stand behind her and speak out in her support. As they edge forward, the little rabbit feels protected and encouraged so that at last she feels confident enough to let them lead her away and play …

Do you think she continued so to do? You bet.

As it is with little animals so it is with young humans; some are outgoing and happy to be one of the crowd from the start, others – the introverts – need empathetic understanding and encouragement so they don’t stay forever on the sidelines.

Sally Anne Garland uses bold brush and coloured pencil strokes to imbue her animal characters with kindliness and humanity while also including in her outdoor scenes, lovely details from the natural world – a ladybird, seed heads, small flowers, for instance.

Definitely a book to share with foundation stage children, and individuals at home.

Have Fun With Boardbooks

Splish, Splash!
Sophie Ledesma and Isobel Otter
Little Tiger
What will Little Fish discover as it swims around beneath the ocean? By manipulating the various sliding mechanisms little ones will discover sea creatures large and small before bidding goodnight to the sleepy Little Fish that has splashed its way right through to the penultimate spread where there’s a convenient place to hide itself behind. ZZZZZ … 

On the final spread all the other creatures that were encountered on the previous pages are labelled. Huge fun and great for developing fine motor skills. Sophie Ledesma’s playful illustrations are full of patterns that add to the visual impact throughout this ‘slide and seek’ book.

Ladybird Ladybird What Can You See?
Pintachan
Little Tiger
This is the latest addition to Pintachan’s brightly illustrated lift-the-flap series wherein Amelia Hepworth introduces positional words – in, behind, inside and under during the game with Ladybird and Ant wherein various other partially hidden minibeasts depicted on the flaps are revealed by lifting the flaps. Ant too is revealed saying in turn ‘It’s Butterfly!’, ‘It’s Spider!’, ‘It’s Bee!’ ‘It’s Worm!’ while the final spread has a mirror hidden under its flap. 

With its simple, repeat refrain rhyming text this is huge fun to share with the very young as well as for beginning readers to read to their younger brothers or sisters. Ant has a different fruit or portion of one on each spread so this offers lots of talk potential – what is it? Who will eat it etc.

Where’s My Puppy?
Becky Davies, illustrated by Kate McLelland
Little Tiger
The mischievous looking puppy shown on the cover of this book has almost disappeared by the first spread and little ones can enjoy following the colourful footprints through the rest of the spreads to discover his whereabouts on the final page. Before that though they encounter in turn Guinea Pig, Kitten, and Pony each of which shares a feature in common with the pup. Guinea Pig has soft fur, Kitten a fluffy tail and Pony’s tongue is rough giving youngsters a variety of tactile experiences as they join in the game to find Puppy. 

With a repeat question on each spread this offers a joining in opportunity too.

Go Go Apple
Claire Philip and Steven Wood
Sunbird Books
I’ve never really considered what happens to apple cores collected in food waste as I always throw mine into a bin that’s emptied straight onto our own compost heap. So, it was interesting to see this title in the ‘My first recycling series’ and be able to follow the journey of one core from collection by a truck to the recycling plant and thence into a large machine where it’s mixed with leaves and other waste food and shredded. Some then goes off to become compost, the rest being liquified for farm manure or made into a gas that can be used for the heat and electricity of homes and cars.

With plenty of accompanying onomatopoeic sounds to join in with, a simple narrative description and fun illustrations, this is an interactive book to share with the very young be that at home or in an early years setting.

Peekaboo Sun
Camilla Reid and Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
Babies and toddlers love to play peekaboo especially when there’s a mirror involved so they’ll thoroughly enjoy this addition to the sliders series with its fishes, sunshine, ice cream boat, crab and other things with a seaside theme. Rhyming couplets introduce the items in Ingela P Arrhenius’s jolly, patterned illustrations.

Great fun and an opportunity for little ones to develop their fine motor skills.

Make Tracks: Building Site / Go Go Tin

Make Tracks: Building Site
Johnny Dryander
Nosy Crow

In one of a new interactive series, Johnny Dryander illustrates five vehicles often found on a building site – those that small children are fascinated by when they see them for real.

Each one – concrete mixer,

dump truck, excavator, bulldozer and front loader – is presented on the verso in a clearly labelled picture along with a brief introductory paragraph giving some information about its key features and what it is used for. There’s also a question for little ones to consider.

On the opposite page, with additional prompts for opening up discussion, is a scene showing people and machines at work on the site. This contains a track around which little fingers can manipulate a counter depicting the vehicle illustrated on the facing page in response to the ‘Can you drive this … “ challenge. (This feature is also part of the front cover.)

With lots of potential for fun learning be that of related language or fine motor skill development, this will be particularly popular with young enthusiasts of large building site machines.

Go Go Tin
Claire Philip and Steven Wood
Sunbird Books

This sturdy board book explains in simple words and bright cheery pictures what happens to a tin can from the time it’s tossed into a kitchen recycling bin until it becomes part of one of the shiny new tins produced at a factory.

With its onomatopoeic sounds aplenty to join in with, little ones will enjoy following the sequence of events from lorry to recycling plant, through a crushing machine, into a furnace to melt and be formed into new blocks, ready for stamping, stretching and further shaping.

Stuck Inside

Stuck Inside
Sally Anne Garland
Sunbird Books

I suspect we can all relate to the title of this story, though perhaps not for the reasons that Tilly and her dog Toby are faced with. The latter has an injured paw so his usual walks have temporarily stopped; Tilly is staying in on account of the rain storm and both girl and dog are feeling hemmed in.

Cooped up together with no adults around, what can they do? Then Toby brings something that belongs outdoors and puts it at Tilly’s feet. This gives her an idea and together they start to explore their large home in search of outdoor items.

Somewhat apprehensively they look behind ‘doors that had always seemed closed’,

inspect beneath beds, open drawers and scour shelves uncovering ‘dusty things long forgotten.’ There they find hitherto unnoticed and interesting things – toys, old walking sticks, broken brollies, roller skates and other items with wheels, a deflated paddling pool even.

Having spent some time tweaking and twiddling these long lost treasures, remembering places visited and creating imaginative adventures, they proudly contemplate their astonishing machine …


Sally Anne Garland’s carefully chosen words in combination with her richly patterned and textured illustrations with their rural setting, effectively demonstrate that boredom can be the best possible stimulus for children’s creativity.