Molly and the Whale

Molly and the Whale
Malachy Doyle and Andrew Whitson
Graffeg

Following a stormy night, Molly and Dylan go down to the seashore in search of interesting items that might have been washed up. What they find however is not what they’d been anticipating.

“Daddy! Daddy! … There’s an enormous whale on the beach!” comes Molly’s cry.

Loading up the barrow with buckets and spades, the father and children head for the beach again where it’s now low tide.

There, with the help of their friends, Molly and Dylan keep the whale’s skin cool and her dad digs a trench around the huge creature.

Then they wait the long wait for the tide to come in, which they hope, will be sufficiently high to enable the whale to free itself and swim away. Molly sings to the massive creature in an effort to calm her own nerves although her heartfelt song cannot cool the increasingly unhappy whale.

Disappointment comes when the high tide proves insufficiently deep to enable the creature to swim off.

Molly is distraught: her father sends her home promising to wait on the beach for the full moon tide. Perhaps that will be higher … and happily, so it proves.

This is the second story to feature island-dwelling Molly, her family and friends. I quickly found myself drawn to the young girl, her empathy with the whale and her determination to save it.

I’m sure young listeners will be too as they hear Malachy’s tale and see Andrew Whitson’s quirky, richly coloured, patterned illustrations of teamwork set against beautiful sea and landscapes .

The Moosic Makers / The Pirate Who Lost His Name

The Moosic Makers
Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos
Maverick Publishing

Farmer Joni loves the ‘MOO-grass’ music her cows Celery and Nutmeg create, although the other animals are less enthusiastic wanting instead mandolins and singing lessons.

But when a wild storm rips the roof from Joni’s barn all the animals are ready to pitch in and raise money for a new one.
While the cows busk, Billy and Esme hold the hat. They’ve only managed to get three coins when a snappy dresser calling himself Georgie Smarm rocks up offering to make them rich and famous so long as they take up DisCOW instead of their MOO-grass music.

Leave it all to us, the cows tell Esme and Billy as they send them back to the farm and embark on their new career.

DisCOW music as delivered by Nutmeg and Celery is a huge success and they play to packed houses.

What of that fortune they’ve been promised? It seems Smarm is nothing but an exploiter who has no intention of handing over the money they’ve earned.

After almost thirty performances the two conclude it’s time to go  home and they return without a single coin.

Undaunted and determined to raise the money for the new roof, the cows decide to do it their way and so, with the help of Billy and Esme, a brand new kind of music festival is announced.

Will the animals raise sufficient funds for the much-needed repair to that barn? What do you think?

Full of MOO-puns and craziness, Heather and Barbara’s teamwork has created a satisfying tale of determination and cooperation that will be a hit with young listeners.

The Pirate Who Lost His Name
Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa
Maverick Publishing

Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa’s take on the seemingly ever-popular pirate tale features a very forgetful piratical character.

So bad is his memory that, despite having all the other necessary pirate requirements, he’s forgotten his own name.

His pirate pals all have suitable names but the nameless pirate is too embarrassed to ask them for help so instead he sets out on a quest to find his name. The journey takes him to several possible memory-jogging locations but neither the Captain Dreamboat’s residence, nor Captain Anorak’s Collector’s Cave can help; not even Pirate Lop-It-Off’s barber shop yields what he needs.

Our nameless pirate despairs. Then his parrot lets him know he’s hungry so they stop and buy some seed at Pirate Duff’s on the way home.

There the name forgetter learns that on his previous visit, he’d left behind his pirate membership card; I wonder what he might find written thereon?

That isn’t quite the end of Lou’s rollicking tale but let’s not spoil the surprise throwaway finale, which will likely make young listeners squawk with delight. They’ll also delight in Genie Espinosa’s zany, larger than life characters executed with a super-bright colour palette.

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters
Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Amulet Books

This is the first of a new chapter book series from the Beaty/Roberts partnership that gave us engineer Rosie Revere, scientist Ada Twist and Iggy Peck, architect.

Now these three have become a team calling themselves The Questioneers and they have plenty of calls on their time and brains. That’s thanks to Rose’s much-loved Aunt Rose and her spirited friends, the Raucous Riveters who built B-29 aeroplanes during World War 2. These women are unstoppable but one of their number, June, has broken both her wrists in a motor scooter accident. Unless somebody – ie Rosie – can find a way to help her, she won’t be able to participate in the forthcoming art competition.

Into action leaps our young engineer aided and abetted by Ada and Iggy, using all kinds of paraphernalia, and after a few false starts, the Paintapalooza is finally ready – just in time for the Art-a-Go-Go.

This affectionate, lively tale is full of things to make newly independent readers smile – not least being the raucous bunch of indomitable Riveters, as well as important lessons about the role of the imagination in problem solving and the importance of resilience in learning.

Clever design gives the book a STEAM feel and Roberts’ zany illustrations are terrific fun.

Speed Birds

Speed Birds
Alan Snow
Oxford University Press

Rather than being awed by his mother’s talk of potentially deadly falcons, a crow chick is entranced when he sees the speed at which a falcon zooms through the air.

Come autumn, the little crows learn that it’s time for them to fend for themselves in the big, wide world. Excited and with his mother’s words “… if you stay curious, use your mind, and believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve” the little bird sets off one morning with the other young crows.
Convinced that there are wonders to be discovered, the little crow urges the others onwards till eventually they stop to spend the night in a lone tree.

It’s here next morning that one little crow makes a most thrilling discovery that is to change his life and that of his fellow crows.

Below the tree is a junkyard full of abandoned vehicles and car parts as well as a shed full of tools, more car parts, trophies and most important, plans and a notebook containing drawings, diagrams and lists.

So begins the project to become the fastest bird in the world.

This is a book that makes nonsense of the notion some primary teachers adhere to that once children achieve reading fluency, they should no longer read picture books. Alan Snow’s illustrations are truly awesome – a combination of fine art and technical drawing with clearly annotated detailed inventories of the car’s and engine’s components and how  the internal combustion engine works as well as the formula for calculating the speed and more.

Mechanically minded adults, as well as older primary children and above, will be enthralled by both the story and the intricate technical details of the art. I wonder if Lewis Hamilton would go even faster with a feather festooned Mercedes?

Big Digger Little Digger

Big Digger Little Digger
Timothy Knapman and Daron Parton
Walker Books

Little Digger is the hardest working machine on the building site.
One day he has a mammoth task: an especially big hole needs digging: is Little Digger up to it? He’ll definitely do his upmost, he thinks.

Suddenly along comes a new machine on the block: “Big Digger dig down DEEP,” he says roaring into action. Little Digger is out of a job but he still wants to find something useful to do.
Off he goes around the site, but he can’t dump, mix cement or move heavy things: seemingly he’s only good for getting in the way. Down in the dumps is how he feels.

By this time Big Digger has dug himself into the deepest hole anyone had ever seen.

There’s a snag though, it’s so deep he’s now stuck inside.

Little Digger hears his cry for help. Now it’s down to him to try and rescue the huge machine.
He certainly won’t be able to manage the job single-handed; but perhaps with teamwork the exceedingly heavy Big Digger can be extricated.

Destined, I suspect, to become a huge hit with construction vehicle-loving children, this tale has echoes of Watty Piper’s 1930’s The Little Engine That Could.

With themes of optimism, determination, teamwork and friendship, refrains (printed in bold) to join in with and just the right amount to tension in the telling, Timothy Knapman’s story makes a splendid read aloud.

Listeners will love Daron Parton’s construction vehicles particularly Little Digger and Big Digger as they trundle their way around the building site setting. Make sure your audience sees the end papers too.

Share with a nursery group, then leave the book, along with small world play construction vehicles on a play mat or rug and observe what happens.

The Little Green Hen

The Little Green Hen
Alison Murray
Orchard Books

Alison Murray has reworked the original Little Red Hen traditional story giving it an environmental slant. Herein her main character resides in the hollow trunk of a large apple tree growing atop a hill.

The Little Green Hen cares for the tree and sows the apple seeds to grow more trees. Before long an orchard has sprung up and she’s in need of some assistant cultivators.
Who would like to help me tend the apple trees?” she asks. Peacock is too busy preening himself but Dog offers his help as assistant pruner.

Requests for assistance with bug control and seed sowing are turned down by Fox and Cat respectively but she finds willing helpers in Sparrow and Squirrel. Throughout the year the new friends tend the orchard and all are rewarded by its bounties.

As autumn turns to winter, down comes the rain, day after day, week after week.

The industrious friends are safe, warm and dry in the old apple tree but Peacock and Fox are flooded out of their homes and seek refuge on Cat’s log.

Fortunately for the trio, The Little Green Hen is big-hearted enough to offer them a place of safety and together they wait for the flood waters to recede.

When the sun finally reappears, it’s time to clean up.

How will the Little Green Hen’s call for help in cleaning up the mess be received by her guests?

Fortunately for all the animals and of course, the orchard, the word is now teamwork.

Thanks to this and the thirsty roots of the new young trees, a new orchard grows up providing food and shelter for all to share.

Alison Murray’s crisp, clean-cut illustrations have a pleasing freshness and the body language and facial expressions of her characters capture their changing feelings eloquently.

Great for individual or story time sharing.

How To Fly Like An Elephant

How To Fly Like An Elephant
Kyoko Nemoto
Puffin/VA

What a preposterous idea – flying like an elephant! Everyone knows that elephants are way too heavy for flying and furthermore they lack the vital appendages for so doing. End of story!
Not quite. Certainly not for the elephants featured in Kyoto Nemoto’s new book. This trio – a big one and two smaller ones – are playful pachyderms, inclined to imaginative ideas; ideas that admittedly require considerable thought and a plan but never say never.

All that’s required are some ‘useful things’ – a propeller for example – and when the elephants can’t locate one, then readers can step in and help by opening the doors of the attic cupboard.

I didn’t know that elephants are skilled tool users but seemingly it’s so and they’re also excellent at working as a team.

Of course, as we’re constantly reminded, ‘elephants can’t fly’.
As I said, they are determined animals and willing to make enormous physical efforts to get themselves airborne even if they subsequently need a bit of human help to reshape the wings of their craft. (We literally have to fold over the corners of the page to make their machine aerodynamic.)

Even that though isn’t quite enough for the perfect plane so it’s back to the drawing board and some work on modifications such as larger wheels and seats.

Will that hard-working threesome ever get themselves well and truly to the point of proving that ‘Elephants CAN fly!’
What do you think? After all they’re not ones to give up easily;

they are great at team work, have the vital playful, determined attributes, are super thinkers and planners so …

With its themes of creativity, teamwork and determination, this is an absolute cracker of a book to inspire young listeners (and adults). From the start we’re willing those elephants to succeed and reader involvement is guaranteed throughout, fuelled by the flaps and folding, as well as Kyoko Nemoto’s enchanting illustrations of the elephants at work and play. These she creates first by making sketches in pencil to which ink-rollered texture is added, and then these are digitally worked.

An exciting debut picture book from one who, like her characters clearly has creativity and persistence aplenty.