Slow Samson

Slow Samson
Bethany Christou
Templar Books

Samson’s favourite activity is spreading happiness as a consequence of which he has lots of friends and many party invitations.

However this is problematic as he frequently stops on route to a venue to help a fellow animal or merely for a friendly chat.

This tardiness causes him to miss out on all the fun, not to mention the cake at Terry’s birthday bash.

Samson resolves to do better and hurry to the next party. True to his word, he dashes past all those in need but still when he arrives, the party is over; worse though without his help, others had suffered. Poor Samson sobs, despairing he’ll ever be on time on account of his slowness.

Unbeknown to the sloth, Samson’s friends are concerned and after considerable thought, come up with a plan. An invitation is sent and Samson decides that despite his lack of speed, he just cannot disappoint his pals.

Next day, off he sets but he doesn’t rush – his friends do however, causing him to feel bad; but on he goes – slowly, slowly, convinced he’ll be very late. But is he?

For fear of being a party pooper, I’ll leave the little creature dangling and you deciding for yourself.

What I will say is that with its rainforest setting, debut picture book creator Bethany Christou’s warm-hearted tale of altruism, friendship, determination, kindness (and the odd piece of cake – oops!) is a great read aloud and a perfect starting point for discussions with young listeners.

I love the expressively portrayed animals especially Samson, and there’s plenty of gently humorous detail to enjoy in every scene as well as in the playful endpapers.

Wakey Birds

Wakey Birds
Maddie Frost
Templar Books

A host of insomniac birdies feature in this story set in the jungle, an exotic location wherein reside all manner of interesting creatures including the titular avians.

To facilitate their sleep with soporific sounds though, are other feathered friends, notably the Soothing Shushers and the Go-To Sleep leapers. Such sounds appears to have worked wonders on this particular night except for the very Littlest Wakey Bird who seems full of life and raring to go.

Eager for some fun and games she sets about some noisy wake-up sounds to rouse her fellow Wakeys. And the cacophony works a treat;

in fact the noise escalates rousing the very noisiest of all the jungle dwellers, the Shrieking Monkey. Big mistake!

The din disturbs that which should ‘never, ever be disturbed -the Dreaded Jungle Beast fast asleep in his cave and he is NOT amused.

Out he comes confronting the Littlest Wakey Bird who, fearing for her life, speaks out. Guess what: she doesn’t become his next snack but soon she and the other Wakeys are entranced by a wonderful story read in the dulcet tones of the dreaded beast;

and it’s effect is to bring on a wonderfully satisfying finale …

Maddy Frost’s book is bedtime reading of the first order, but equally, fun in the daytime. The nocturnal frolics of the jungle inhabitants will delight youngsters at any time; be prepared for a very noisy story session when you share this one.

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon
Frann Preston-Gannon
Templar Books

Shhh! Can you hear that sound? It’s little frog down in the swamp sitting alone quietly singing his little frog song ‘neath the light of the moon.

Coming to a sudden stop he lets out a sigh and deciding solo singing really isn’t fun, hops off to find someone to join in.
He first enlists a friendly humming, drumming crocodile …

but still the tune lacks something so he adds some mice with their ‘la’s some “OH OH OH!” –ing fish, three coo-ing birds (at their own request);

but still the song isn’t right.

Then Froggy happens on a tiny shy bug convinced that her song isn’t worth adding to theirs.

Froggy however speaks thus, “… your song’s unique and important like all the rest. Even small voices count … only you sing your song.”

And so the little bug sings and as she does so, she shines like a bright star .

The voices blend beautifully as the song rises to a brilliant crescendo, the tune permeating every part of the swamp until everything on earth has joined in the singing.

This book delivers such a vitally important message in its celebration of the softly spoken introverts (I remember being such a one as a child, rather than the outspoken woman I now have become.) It’s a book that needs to be shared widely in nurseries, schools and with individuals particularly those similar to the little bug. It also speaks to the socially confident extroverts who may need to be made aware of the importance of leaving space for everyone to have their say.

Told through Frann’s lyrical rhyming narrative and her splendid collage illustrations (I love the way she places images on the page), this inclusive tale is a huge winner in my book.

Halloween is Coming: The Right One / Monster School / Bizzy Bear Spooky House

The Right One
Violeta Noy
Templar Books

New Spanish author/illustrator Violeta Roy presents in bold graphics, a cute story about daring to be different ghost-style: it’s perfect for Halloween, especially for those who don’t like to be scared.

Roderic is the smallest ghost in a very large, ancient family. They all look pretty much alike on account of wearing sheets although Roderic’s is the tiniest.

This diminutive ghost is the last of a long line and he feels more than a little insignificant. None of his family seems to notice his presence. Roderic decides to do something about this. His name is fixed, ditto his family but he can change his appearance. Both a hat, and a scarf prove problematic.

Next morning, deciding a more radical approach is required, our little ghost experiments until finally he’s ready to sport his new gear.

However the reception he receives isn’t quite what he’d hoped, so off he goes to strut his stuff among the city folks. Once again though, nobody notices him at all: poor little thing is now feeling even more invisible than ever.

Back home again he’s given a fresh white sheet but it makes him anything but happy. His frustration causes things to start flying around, one of which just happens to land upon the little ghost and yippee! It feels absolutely right.

What’s more, it looks absolutely right and now nobody is going to stop him from wearing it.
And maybe, just maybe, his new appearance might have some influence on other members of Roderic’s family.

For older readers:

Monster School
Kate Coombs and Lee Gatlin
Chronicle Books

A school it may be, but despite its fairly typical activities – homework for example, there’s a class pet and a regular weekly menu on offer at the cafeteria – Monster School’s pupils are anything but your usual boys and girls; the staff are pretty weird too.

Let’s meet some of them. There’s Stevie the Loser, who manages to lose pretty much anything and everything from backpack, book and homework, to his eyeball, kneecap and arm; what a zombie! He may not be able to find said homework but keen-eyed readers will surely spot it still attached to that missing arm of his.
There’s also ‘a ‘multicultural’ miss – whose family tree comprises giants, witches, trolls and other ghoulies.

Computer Wizard has tech skills aplenty: app creator, program writer extraordinaire, with a mouse that dines on virtual crackers and cheese and a ram that consumes virtual grass; seemingly this guy can do anything so long as it’s not a word problem.
I should also mention she of the amazing hair; it’s entirely reptilian with an abundance of adders, vipers and other venomous twisters and twiners.

Katie Coombs imaginative verses employ a variety of forms that will send tingles down the spines of primary age readers while Lee Gatlin’s creepy illustrations home in on the grim and gruesome with plenty of details of the shivery kind.

For the youngest:

Bizzy Bear Spooky House
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow

In his latest adventure, Bizzy Bear dons his starry costume and accompanied by his pal, ventures into a spooky house. Therein are plenty of things to make him shiver as he enters the spiders’ web festooned hall, climbs the creaky stairs and discovers a surprise party at the very top of the house.
Benji Davies’ scenes have plenty to amuse and explore and with a slider or tab to manipulate on every spread, this is mock scary Halloween fun for toddlers.

Norbert

Norbert
Joanna Boyle
Templar Books
Why would anyone with a whole lot of friends and family decide to uproot himself and set off for distant shores? That’s what penguin Norbert decides to do when he discovers one day, a flyer about a musical in the big city.
None of his fellow penguins shows the least bit of interest in joining him so, sad as he feels at their lack of enthusiasm, Norbert sets sail on a somewhat perilous voyage of rough waters and seasickness

that finally takes him to an enormous city.

Perhaps it’s time to write home, he thinks but the sight of the theatre sends the notion clean out of his head. Instead he heads straight inside where he is quickly spellbound by the performance.
Immediately, Norbert knows he too wants to be on the stage. He joins a long line of auditioners – singers, all.
The judges are seemingly, impressed; but the role they allocate Norbert isn’t exactly what he’d hoped for.

He does get a chance to try his flippers at various other jobs too; plenty to tell those at home, yet still he doesn’t write.

Then one day, the star of the show –something of a prima donna – quits and guess who is asked to step in.

Norbert wows the audience; he’s a star. Life as a famous singer comprises rounds of party going, being a passenger in a limousine and singing in every Broadway musical you can think of. Still he doesn’t write that letter home.

When he wins a prestigious award, the star penguin suddenly feels there is something he really must do – right away.
Letter of apology duly penned and posted he waits for a response.

Meanwhile back in the Antarctic his penguin pals have been busy organising something special to welcome him home.

What could it be? They’ve certainly been inspired by their friend and are eager that he return to their midst.

Joanna Boyle has created a super story of determination, difference, following and fulfilling your dreams and friendship. Imbued in turn with pathos and humour, her illustrations both large and small are staged with impressive style.

Raj and the Best Day Ever!

Raj and the Best Day Ever!
Sebastien Braun
Templar Publishing

Meet young and entirely lovable tiger, Raj and his cool Dad.

They’ve drawn up a plan of the adventure they’re about to embark upon and are super-excited about the whole enterprise. Then it’s a case of back-pack packed and they sally forth.

First stop the library and book chosen, it’s time to show your library card. Oh NO! Disaster! Dad hasn’t brought his wallet. Without that all the things on that list have just flown out of the window so to speak.

Raj is convinced that their perfect day is ruined before it even begins., especially as down comes the rain.
Time to get those imaginations powered up …

Off they go and before long, it looks as though the day might just be rescued,

but then the wind whisks their list up and away and in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad style, Raj fears that without their list, they won’t know what to do.

Good old Dad! Imagination rules again and off they go once more.

With a wonderful twist in its tale, Sebastien Braun’s story is an absolute winner. Sadly my copy arrived too late for Father’s Day but this is a perfect share on any day: a Dad who’s willing to pitch in and enjoy life no matter what; a book enthusiast offspring equally willing to look on the bright side – two colourful characters superbly portrayed by Seb Braun whose books just keep on getting better.

This one could be the perfect distraction from that seemingly wall to wall soccer and it’s a cracking demonstration that companionship and imagination are all that’s needed for the very best day ever: no money, no technology, just free-flowing fun.

Little Mole is a Whirlwind

Little Mole is a Whirlwind
Anna Llenas
Templar Books

I’ve had a Little Mole in some of the classes I’ve taught over the years: ADHD, whether or not it’s so labelled, is challenging for all involved but underneath the child who is at times making you feel deskilled is usually a youngster who is desperately trying to reach out for reassurance and help. It’s certainly the case in this new story from Anna Llenas.

With his bounding, bouncing and bellowing, Little Mole exhausts his parents.

At school he finds it almost impossible to concentrate and is constantly distracted, fiddling, fidgeting and forgetting so it’s no surprise that his classmates shun him. Sadly the little creature has all sorts of labels assigned to him.

His teacher is at the end of her tether; try as she might, she just can’t help Little Mole to focus.

A note goes home asking for a parental conference but almost simultaneously a newspaper is delivered advertising the services of ‘Serena the Forest Bunny’ offering ‘creative learning for wonderful children’. Could this be the answer?

Little Mole’s parents take him to meet Serena who thinks she might be able to help.

The following day Little Mole tells her about his worries regarding his end-of-year project, about his inability to stay focussed and his lack of friends.

In response Serena takes him to a room filled with creative materials and gives Little Mole free rein. At first he’s over-excited and soon chaos reigns.

Serena remains calm and supportive both then and on subsequent visits as they play, cook …

and even stargaze. Most importantly though, they talk, and gradually over the course of several months his concentration span increases.
Serena helps her pupil discover what he really likes to do and with her reassurance that he’s wonderful just the way he is, Little Mole is ready to work on that end-of-year project.

Come the last day of term his teacher has a wonderful surprise when it comes to project showing time. Little Mole has finally found his passion and his outlook on the world is completely changed.

Anna Llenas understands all this so well and her story, with her trademark collage style illustrations, portrays Little Mole as a thoroughly likeable character deserving of the tolerance and understanding shown by Serena.