I Really Want To Share!

I Really Want To Share!
Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti
Templar Books

Sharing is a challenge for many young children and so it is for the young narrator protagonist in this the fourth in the I Really Want To series, who is faced with a new sibling in her family. Not only will she have to share her parents but lots of other things too. However sharing does not come at all easily even to a determined character like the one here.

On the day the baby is due to arrive, soon to be big sister is sent to stay with her grandparents, and her grandfather quickly sees that something is wrong. When he’s told the problem, he explains that sharing has been tricky for him ever since he married her grandma, it’s something they have gradually learned to do. Then his granddaughter reveals that her biggest fear is that she will lose the affection of her parents.

When baby brother is born there are up times and down times for everyone,

but will there come a time when big sister can honestly say that four in our family makes me glad; will she truly say, “I really love to share”? I wonder …

Lucia Gaggiotti’s wonderfully funny illustrations in a bold colour palette really capture the protagonist’s emotional roller coaster and the spirit of Simon Philip’s text. Together they make a book that is just right for sharing with young children who are soon to be, or have just become, a big sister or brother.

You need To Chill! / I Believe in Me

You Need to Chill!
Juno Dawson and Laura Hughes

The narrator of this upbeat rhyming picture book has an older brother, Bill; but her friends haven’t seen him for a while and want to know what has happened: where is he? They put forward all manner of possibilities that could account for his absence but from our narrator come denials that all end “And, hun you need to chill.”

However these friends are persistent, caring and determined, till finally comes the revelation, “… The truth is that my brother Bill … is now my sister Lily.’ Yes it may have been something of a shock initially but despite her new name and looks, much remains the same: she’s still as kind, funny and clever as ever; her family all love her.

Both Juno Dawson’s words and Laura Hughes’ pictures are full of warmth and a gentle humour: with its themes of identity, kinship and acceptance this inclusive story beautifully conveys its message in a manner that allows young children to take what they need and ask questions if they want further explanations. Fiction books such as this one are a very good way of opening discussion with primary children in PSHE sessions: such discussions help children learn that differences make the world a much more interesting place.

I Believe In Me
Emma Dodd
Templar Books

In conversation as the two swim together through the swampy landscape, a little crocodile speaks of the self belief the Mother crocodile has instilled in her offspring. Knowing one can do anything if only you try; the importance of never giving up if something goes wrong, as well as telling yourself that those dark days are always followed by brighter ones if you keep reaching for the sky, are key for little humans as well as little crocodiles. That way keeps the entire world open for you to forge your path through life, optimistic and confident in yourself. So says this inspiring little book through Emma’s simple rhyming text and bold digital illustrations, some with gold foil, that perfectly capture the little croc’s sentiments. 

I Want the Moon

I Want The Moon
Frann Preston-Gannon
Templar Books

As a child, the protagonist in Frann Preston-Gannon’s new book is so over-indulged by his parents that he’s unable to make even a single friend. Instead the result of them trying to engineer a friendship between their son and the boy next door results in the two becoming enemies.

Suddenly one night after a particularly ferocious fury his parents offer to buy him anything he wants. But money can’t buy the moon.

As a grown man, the same character is rich, important and lives the life of royalty, but that childhood longing for the moon remains. He summons all his team members and together they draw up plans for a ‘Get Moon’ machine. Hard toil on behalf of his workers results in the mindless destruction of vital elements of the local community

and the construction of a towering machine that just keeps on growing up and up. Rampant capitalism is at large here.

Then one night the moon is almost within his grasp: he stretches out his hands and …

An inevitable tug of war ensues and I expect you can guess the outcome of that.

Can the townsfolk’s children perhaps do anything to fix this disastrous situation?

This clever parable that is highly relevant today, shows the foolishness of greed and the importance of understanding where true happiness can be found: it certainly isn’t where this moon-grabber was looking. Do your child listeners think he finally learned the error of his ways, I wonder?

With her characteristic large variety of textures and wealth of small details, Frann’s boldly coloured illustrations will definitely hold the interest of young readers and encourage them to revisit the story over and over. If you share the book with a group or class, make sure you build in time to allow your audience to explore every spread.

The Baker by the Sea

The Baker by the Sea
Paula White
Templar Books

There’s a gentle lyrical feeling about Paula White’s highly detailed illustrations for this book, which is set in a beach village on Suffolk’s east coast, her erstwhile hometown that was also home to a thriving fishing community until the devastating Great Floods in the early 1950s.

A watchful young boy describes the grown-ups working hard at their various occupations: the shop-keepers, the blacksmiths, the basketmakers, the bakers – chiefly his father, the sail-makers, the net-makers and rope-makers, the coopers who make barrels in which the fish were pickled, the fisher-girls from Scotland who prepare, pickle and pack the fish and most important of all, the fishermen out in their boats while everyone else is asleep.

The boy narrator is an aspiring fisherman who imagines himself hard at work aboard a fishing-boat, helping his fellow team members at the ropes, hauling in a fine catch and perhaps battling against the elements, before sailing back to the safety of the village.

One can almost smell the wonderful aroma of his father’s fresh bread wafting across the bay to welcome both the returnees and the new day as it dawns.

It’s not just bread that his father bakes but also biscuits, buns, the boatbuilders’ favourite bacon butties. The boy loves to help in the bakery, basking in the warmth and glow within while also thinking about those outside, who toil in the cold, windy weather. He watches too, the exchange between his father and one of the returning fishermen who comes into his bakery.

A nostalgic, respectful, loving look at a community in a time gone by when everybody knew and supported one another. this lovely book concludes with a recipe for hot coconut buns taken from the author’s grandpa Percy’s notebook.

Paula’s incredibly beautiful, realistic pen-and-ink artwork, though very different in artistic style, for me is imbued with the spirit of Edward Ardizzone.

One Tiny Dot

One Tiny Dot
Lucy Rowland and Gwen Millward
Templar Books

The transformative effect of kindness is personified and explored in this tale of what starts off as a small spherical entity and ends up in the same state; but it’s what happens in between that matters and that we discover, as we follow the blue dot for a day.

Starting its perambulations in a busy town street our titular dot encounters a boy proudly wearing a new pair of trainers. Act of kindness number one comes when the boy invites the dot to stay for a while and off they go cheerfully until …

Happily a girl sees the soaked shoes and then comes act of kindness number two accompanied by an increase in the size of our dot. All three proceed on their way together and an encounter with a distressed old gentleman leads to act of kindness number three and a huge increase in girth for the dot.

Through the fields they go, kindness flowing behind them, until there’s a veritable crowd of happy people also exuding kindness and enlarging the kindness dot to a gigantic size. They reach the town and there smiles and goodness soon pervade the entire place attracting the attention of the mayor. Much impressed at what he sees, it’s a case of “ice creams on me”. Suddenly though as they make their way to the beach, this is what they come upon …

Fortunately Kindness knows a thing or two about Anger: but can that blue Kindness dot save the day?

Carrying with it a vitally important message, Lucy Rowland’s rhyming narrative rolls along as well as her main character in this uplifting story. Helping equally to spread that message are Gwen Millward’s inspiriting child-centric scenes. May that dot just keep on rolling. Adult readers aloud, be they at home or in primary classrooms, can help maintain the theme’s momentum.

(Having read the story, teachers might try using a small blue ball in a circle time, throwing it to each child in turn who suggests their own act of kindness for the day).

Chirp! / Five Little Chicks

Mary Murphy
Walker Books

As a new day begins, each bird adds its voice to the dawn chorus. The Thrush warbles, Blackbird whistles ‘Tooraloo’ and then in turn we hear a sequence of onomatopoeic contributions from the Wren, the Lark, the Finch,

the Robin, the Swallow, followed by Wagtails, a Starling, Magpies, the farmyard Goose, Duck and Hen, the Pigeon and the Cockerel.

Suddenly into the crescendo of early morning sound, from a tiny blue unnamed bird that’s been watching and waiting patiently, comes a “Hush! It’s my turn to sing.” It then adds a zippy-zippy-zippeeeeee that serves as a reminder that. ‘ … We all have something to say. / We all get to shout / for a brand new / day!’

As it is with our feathered friends, so it should be for humans: everyone deserves a chance to get his or her voice heard.
With its wealth of sounds that cry out to be echoed by little humans, this is a fun story with an important message at its heart. And what an abundance of sound/symbol associations to be enjoyed.

Five Little Chicks
Lily Murray and Holly Surplice
Templar Publishing

In Lily Murray’s version of the nursery song Five Little Ducks, she’s replaced the ducks with chicks and a Mama Hen and makes the entire text more interactive by asking after every foray over the hills, ‘Now how many chicks / can you see?’, as well as offering some seemingly irresistible bait to her offspring. It certainly has the desired effect and there’s a lovely final surprise for Mama Chick provided by her little ones.

Holly Surplice has included lots of other baby animals and their parents in her springtime illustrations of the chickens and their adventure that takes them through a flower-filled meadow, a bluebell wood, a field of gambolling lambs, a farmyard and beside the stream.

Every one of the scenes is absolutely bursting with bold images and bright colour; and ramping up the interactive nature of the book are the numerous flaps to explore on every spread.

Little humans will definitely enjoy sharing this with their own mother figures, particularly around Mother’s Day and Easter, though this is a book that youngsters will want to go back to time and again. With it’s predictable text it’s also a good one for those in the early stages of reading to try for themselves.

Books For Giving That Keep On Giving

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Things That Go!
Pavilion Books

This book brings together three of William Bee’s much-loved titles – Trucks, Trains and Boats and Planes, and Tractors and Farm Machines, in one bumper volume. I’ve already reviewed each of them on this blog so I won’t repeat myself; rather I’ll suggest that if you have a young child with an interest in things mechanical (or perhaps even yummy sounding breakfast cereals such as those sold down on William’s farm), then unless they already own the individual books, a copy of this totally immersive publication narrated in William Bee’s chatty style with his detailed, gently humorous illustrations, would make a smashing present.

Pippi Longstocking
Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child
Oxford Children’s Books

This large format, beautifully produced new edition of a classic has been brought up-to-date with terrific contemporary illustrations from Lauren Child and a new translation by Susan Beard.

We follow Pippi Longstocking on her amazing adventures as she moves, sans parents, into Villa Villekulla with a horse, a monkey, and a big suitcase of gold coins. Despite well-meaning adult villagers’ attempts to guide Pippi, she’d far rather be a wild spirit. She meets Tommy and Annika who very soon become her best friends. These new friends join her on her amusing escapades – leading the police a merry dance, going to school – briefly, joining the circus taking on a strong man and wowing the crowd, dancing a polka with thieves and celebrating her birthday.

Young readers and listeners will delight in their encounters with this intrepid, sometimes outrageous heroine while older ones and adults will rekindle their love of her with this bumper book that would make a super Christmas present.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll & Grahame Baker-Smith
Templar Books

It’s always interesting to see new visual interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale and although for me none can outdo those of Tenniel, assuredly Grahame Baker-Smith’s distinctive illustrations, breathe a different kind of life into Carroll’s story.

Every chapter has full page, richly coloured detailed spreads as well as several smaller pictures executed either in blues or sepia. 

One I lingered long over was the double page colour spread of the Mad Tea-Party and an amazing spread it assuredly is. There’s a large iced cake, the upper surface of which is crammed full of liquorice all sorts and what look to be those flying saucer sweets that contain sherbet. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of an egg cup containing an egg and peeking through the crack in its shell is the face of a chick. It’s details such as those that the new generation of readers who go down the rabbit hole , as well as those familiar with the story taking the descent again, will remember.

With illustrations full of mystery and magic and a superb design, this is a terrific gift book.

The Provensen Book of Fairy Tales
edited & illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen
NYR Children’s Collection

This anthology contains a dozen ‘literary’ fairytales selected by the husband and wife team to illustrate with their own whimsical touches.

Among those included are Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale, Oscar Wilde’s literary The Happy Prince, The Three Wishes told by Barbara Leonie Picard, Arthur Rackham’s classic version of Beauty and the Beast, Elinor Mordaunt’s The Prince and the Goose Girl, a reworking of Grimm’s Goose Girl, Parker Fillmore’s retelling of the Finnish story The Forest Bride, and a tale new to me, A.A. Milne’s Prince Rabbit. With an unexpected final twist, this is an amusing story of a childless king who is urged to name an heir. To that end the king arranges a series of contests for would-be heirs who meet certain criteria; one of which is a rabbit.

I found it fascinating to have such a variety of storytellers side by side in one volume, with the Provensens’ humorous, sometimes dark illustrations and I suspect this is a book that will appeal more to book collectors and older readers with a particular interest in fairy tales, than to child readers.

What a Wonderful World

What a Wonderful World
Leisa Stewart-Sharpe and Lydia Hill
Templar Books

In this compilation, author Leisa Stewart-Sharpe takes readers to various parts of the world – the top of mountains, through rainforests, across deserts, over grasslands, along rivers, to both icy poles and deep down into the ocean – presenting the amazing flora and fauna of a large variety of habitats. In so doing, she shares stories of over thirty “‘Earth Shakers’ – activists young and not so young who have worked tirelessly for the cause of nature. The youngest mentioned is Romario Valentine (aka Romario Moodley) fundraiser and talented artist who on his 9th birthday asked for donations to an endangered bird sanctuary nearby rather than presents or a party.

Let’s go now to the foot of Mount Everest to meet Priti Sakha and learn about her fight for clean air in and around her home city of Bhaktapur. As a volunteer for the group Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, this nineteen year old participated in street clean-ups, protests and visited schools to help students understand the terrible dangers of air pollution and talking about ways in which everybody can work towards cleaner air in the Himalayan region. “The mountains are our pride. I’m taking a stand” she said. The spread devoted to this young woman and each of the other people featured includes a relevant ‘green tip’.

Trees are crucial to our world and several people included in this collection have espoused their cause. There’s German schoolboy Felix Finkbeiner who’s started a tree planting project in his school. It quickly spread to other schools and within a year, some 50,000 tree seedlings had been planted across the country. He set up the ‘Plant-for-the-Planet’ organisation to involve children the world over and to date there are over 91,000 child participants representing 75 countries.

Trees were also Julia Butterfly Hill’s cause. This young woman visited the redwood forests of California intending to stay for just a week, However on discovering that the forest was to be cleared by a lumber company, she lived peacefully in the branches of a tree named Luna for two years until finally the company agreed to leave a 60 metre protective zone around that tree and others in the vicinity.

Another tree planter was Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai who planted 50 million trees across Africa and started the Green Belt Movement to that end, a movement that continues to transform both people’s lives and the landscape.

Doing his utmost for the cause of Antarctic seals, is polar scientist/conservationist Prem Gill. Studying these creatures in the field is a massive challenge and Prem uses space satellite technology to do so.

There’s no room in this review to mention the awesome work of everyone spotlighted in this hugely inspiring book but I must introduce sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen who took on the huge task of both cleaning up the beaches of Bali and setting up the organisation Bye Bye Plastic Bags to help tackle the island’s massive plastic problem. I was amazed to learn that Indonesia has become the second worst plastic polluter in the world.

With Lydia Hill’s striking illustrations of activists and wildlife and a foreword by Lee Durrell MBE, this surely is a book to motivate youngsters to get involved, both by making small changes and joining in with a project or two that particularly interests them. (Suggestions are given at the end of the book, and there’s a glossary and letter from the author too.)

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess
Tom Gauld
Templar Books

This is a whimsical, truly magical neo fairy tale that begins as often fairy tales do with a king and queen ruling happily, from their hilltop castle; but they are childless.

One night both husband and wife decide to try and change that: the king consults the royal inventor; the queen pays a visit to a clever witch living in the woods.

Inventor and witch set to work right away, the former using her best tools to fashion a tiny intricate robot, the latter uses her deepest magic on a log and from it conjures a perfect little living log princess.

All family members love one another and the siblings spend their days playing happily but they share a secret: by night the princess reverts to her log form and is only woken by her brother’s incantation of “Awake, little log, awake.”

One morning though, the princess is left alone in bed sleeping and catastrophe – she is tossed out of the window by a maid and ends up rolling away toward the village.

Her brother gives chase only to discover she has been sold to a barge captain taking a cargo of logs to the Frozen North. Unhesitatingly to rescue her, he boards the barge as it sails away and eventually his search is rewarded. Then it’s time to begin the arduous journey home, a journey that is so full of hazards and adventures that the hero’s parts wear right out.

But not before he’s uttered the magic words, brought the princess back to life and recounted all that’s happened.
Words of forgiveness are spoken, then it’s her turn to take charge of the situation and she bravely steps up.

The princess too has many adventures, with obstacles to overcome, not the least being her increasing tiredness. Fighting sleep she trudges on until she can go no further and …

Will they ever reach home? Well, this is a fairytale that began, as many do, ‘There once lived a king and queen …’ so as readers will be hoping, it does end ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’ Before that though, there’s a further sequence of selfless acts of kindness, a witch encounter and yet more kindness.

There is a tremendous amount to love about this book, not least being the wonderful montages of both heroes’ adventures. Then there’s Tom Gauld’s artistic style with its textures, well-chosen colour palette and the wealth of delightful details that start on the front endpapers and continue throughout the book, adding further depth to the text, while his portrayal of characters be they key protagonists or bit part players, are an absolute delight.

A cracking book to get lost in, time and again, whether you share it with one child, several or a whole class.

This Book is Pants

This Book is Pants
John Kane
Templar Books

John Kane seems to have something of a penchant for a certain type of undergarment: I well remember groups of children enthusiastically chorusing, ‘underpants, underpants’ whenever I’ve shared his I Say OOH You Say AAH.

There’s certainly a plethora of pants in this interactive, intergalactic adventure starring a boy narrator and his alien pal, Buzzly, that he meets on the moon.

By donning the appropriate pants – courtesy of the reader aloud who has to wear them – the boy launches his rocket moonwards and having landed, encounters Buzzly who wants to visit planet Earth. Pants alert!

But what pants do you need to beat a hasty retreat,

climb a tree, escape from a dark scary place, warm an increasingly chilly rear,

or sate your hunger? And what are the very BEST PANTS EVER?
That, you’ll need to discover for yourself …

All you need to do is bag yourself a copy of the book, wear the appropriate snazzy pants as required and prepare for action: pantalicious fun assured. I forgot to mention that for the best results you’ll also need an audience of one or preferably quite a few, young listeners. Think of the fun you could have with a class creating their own pants stories using appropriately chuddies shaped books.

Story Soup

Story Soup
Abie Longstaff and Nila Aye
Templar Publishing

As the story starts Ollie is in the process of mixing a story and it’s to be about skateboards – only skateboards. Well, that was his intention but he hadn’t reckoned on the intervention of his sister Susie. She just can’t resist adding some ingredients to the pot and it becomes so Susie says, “OUR story”. A twisting turning story of a skateboarding princess and a reluctantly bad, somewhat silly pirate named Barnacle who develops a taste for ‘yellow sausages’.

All of a sudden things start getting out of control with various things falling into the mixture,

Ollie claiming his story is spoiled and Susie tossing all kinds of random items into the pot over which they start to tussle causing terrible turmoil among the soup ingredients.

Can the brother and sister possibly save the situation if they change their tactics and start to co-operate … You never know: will there or will there not be a ‘happily ever after’ ending? I wonder …

If ever there was an incentive for youngsters to start creating their own stories it’s this zany picture book. There’s even a recipe on the final page to set those brain cells imagining. Think what fun you could have in the classroom if you provide a large container and a large spoon, sit the children in a circle and invite them to co-create an adventure.

Seemingly both author and illustrator had lots of fun concocting their action-packed tale of a tale – embedded narrative gone mad! I love the way Nila’s illustrations of the brother and sister segue from their actions to their story narrative and back during the course of Abie’s telling.

For Your Toddler Bookshelf

I’m thinking of a Jungle Animal
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Lucia Gaggiotti
Nosy Crow

Each of the the four wide-eyed child participants in the ‘I’m thinking of …’ game has a different jungle animal in mind. What do these creatures look like? What do they eat? What sound do they make? Little humans are invited to think about the simple clues, have a guess based on the information provided, search for the animal hiding in Lucia Gaggiotti’s colourful jungle scene and finally, pull the slider to discover the answer to the rhyming clues. Fun learning for the very young.

100 First Words: City
illustrated by Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow

Edward Underwood features city life in this second large format, super-stylish board book, devoting a double spread to in turn, the street, a railway station, the zoo, a supermarket. a museum, a (swimming) pool and a restaurant. Using a grid format and bright, colourful illustrations like the previous book, Underwood introduces a variety of nouns: for instance in the supermarket toddlers will see such items as tomato, trolley, toilet paper, broccoli, cashier, till, boxes and there are two sturdy, shaped flaps to look under. On this spread there’s a tin inside which are fish, and boxes that reveal an assistant.

This book is likely to prove invaluable in helping to build vocabulary at that vital stage when toddlers are learning to talk. One hopes adults will use this as stimulus for speech by asking questions like ‘what shall we put in the trolley?’ as they share the book with a little one.

Home Is Where the Heart Is
Emma Dodd
Templar Books

We all have things that make our particular home feel special and so it is with Emma Dodd’s thoughtful big cat and a playful little kitten. For the feline twosome, home’s a place to spend time playing and resting; a warm safe haven from stormy weather, as well as somewhere special no matter if its residents are there together or for some reason, apart.

Emma’s distinctive golden touches embellish her adorable feline illustrations on alternate spreads and her rhyming narrative told from the adult cat’s viewpoint.

First Nature: Caterpillar / Little Hen Little Hen What Can You See? / When Mummy Goes to Work

First Nature: Caterpillar
Harriet Evans and Bryony Clarkson
Caterpillar Books (Little Tiger)

By means of a lovely playful, descriptive rhyming text – ‘Caterpillar chomps and caterpillar crunches. // Caterpillar chews / and caterpillar munches.’ and clever cutaway pages with flaps, author Harriet and illustrator Bryony present the life cycle of an eponymous butterfly.
Additional information snippets are hidden beneath the flaps making this fun for little fingers to explore, as well as little ears to enjoy.

Little Hen Little Hen What Can You See?
Amelia Hepworth and Pintachan
Little Tiger

Little humans will love accompanying the little hen as it wanders around the farmyard and in response to the titular question posed on each spread by the friendly little bee, discovers the various creatures hiding in plain sight and named when the flap is lifted to reveal in turn Mouse, Cow, Horse, Sheep. Beneath the final flap is a mirror so tinies will come face to face with their own image.
The simple, repeat pattern text and Pintachan’s bold bright images of the animal characters offer a hide-and-seek game for toddlers and adults to enjoy together, probably over and over again.

When Mummy Goes to Work
Paul Schofield and Anna Terreros-Martin
Templar Publishing

This is a cleverly crafted little book, the first in a new series and it’s ideal for a parent just returning to work after the birth of a child, to share with a little one.

Having breakfasted together, Mum dons her paramedic’s uniform and bids farewell to her child, leaving Nan and Grandad in charge.

Events from her working day are then chronicled in a first person rhyming narrative illustrated with small images on each verso – driving the ambulance,

tending a patient in bed, pushing a wheel chair, examining someone’s ears.

These are mirrored in full page, detailed scenes on the recto, showing the child playing out similar scenarios.

As if speaking directly to the little one, author Paul Schofield uses the mother’s reassuring voice for the sequence of verses; illustrator Anna Terreros-Martin’s visual interpretations are an absolute delight and full of wonderful details to pore over.

Slug in Love / How Big Is Love?

Slug in Love
Rachel Bright and Nadia Shireen
Simon & Schuster

Meet Doug, a slug that’s feeling rather lonesome; he would really love a hug. (Wouldn’t we all?) But just imagine hugging a slug – not a very pleasurable prospect me thinks. So agree the various minibeasts he encounters. There’s earthworm, spider, ant, caterpillar each of which beats a hasty retreat; but not before uttering some thoroughly disheartening words.

Oh dear! Is poor Doug to remain forever sans hug? Hold on, what about Gail the stylish snail? She exhibits all the characteristics eschewed by the four previous creatures – now surely she must be THE one …

Once again though, our slug is given the thumbs – or rather antennae – down.

Feeling ever more dejected, Doug pauses to contemplate his lack of an embrace

and unexpectedly something comes flying along. Could she be his hugger at last? With its wealth of wordplay, Rachel’s punchy rhyming narrative, combined with Nadia’s delicious depictions of Doug, the naysayers and more, make for a book that’s a gigglesome delight. In addition, it’s great for developing sound/symbol awareness and, you’ll absolutely love the final twist.

How Big Is Love?
Emma Dodd
Templar Books

In Emma Dodd’s gorgeous story, a mother duck shows her five little ducklings just how boundless is her love for them. Such love as hers illuminates the entire world, is heart filling, unchanging in the face of life’s unsettling moments,

it’s uplifting and supportive, all day every day even in the darkest of difficult times. But these thoughts haven’t come to the mother of their

own accord, it’s through her day-to-day interactions with her little ones that these feelings have emerged so that she can express them through both her words and dealings.

Heartfelt sentiments, beautifully expressed and tenderly illustrated with gorgeous scenes of the natural world, (alternating ones embellished with gold) Emma’s new book is ideal for sharing with the very youngest,

Human Journey / Prehistoric Pets

Human Journey
Professor Alice Roberts, illustrated by James Weston Lewis
Red Shed

Readers may recall the BBC documentary series researched and presented by biological anthropologist, Professor Alice Roberts about a decade back called The Incredible Human Journey and now at last we have this superbly presented illustrated book Human Journey for children.

In a dramatic telling, that includes sufficient but never an excess of detail, we’re taken on a journey way, way back to the beginning of time to trace our ancestors. Did you know that at the Dawn of Humankind, our early human ancestors lived on the grasslands of Africa some two and a half million years ago?

It’s those people whose migrations it’s possible to trace to other parts of the globe, and that’s what this fascinating, highly accessible book does. We follow the spread of humankind to Asia, then to Australia; then around 50,000 years ago to Europe where Homo sapiens encountered the Neanderthals.

Then come several spreads on the Ice Age after the peak of which, human hunters began to colonise the Americas – first North and then South.

There’s a map at the end tracing the entire human journeys; journeys where there were perils to face in the form of deserts, climate change, oceans, volcanoes, enormous creatures, floods

and even more. Incredibly however, the people adapted and invented, survived and thrived.

If you’ve ever pondered upon what it means to be part of the human race, this book is one to read. It’s one too where, with their wonderful details, the illustrations of James Weston Lewis merit close attention. There’s also a useful timeline and glossary.

For family bookshelves and school collections from KS2 on.

Prehistoric Pets
Dr Dean Lomax and Mike Love
Templar Books

If you’ve ever wondered what your moggy or your pooch’s ancestors long, long ago were like, then this book is for you. And even if you haven’t or perhaps don’t own a pet but are interested in the branch of science that is concerned with fossil animals and plants, called palaentology as is the author Dr Dean Lomax, then this book will fascinate you.

Herein Dr Lomax has selected seven animals, four of which are mammals: representing the rodents is Ernest the guinea pig, the Felidae is Flossy the cat; there’s Toby whose Canidae family first evolved some 40 million years back,

while horse, Pippa with her thick keratin hooves to help her run on both hard and soft ground, is the Equidae representative.

Each of these creatures, as well as budgerigar Lucky, Jasper the corn snake and Goldfish, Bubbles that belongs to a group of ray-finned fish that first appeared some 415 million years back – wow!

Every one has a double spread with a gatefold that opens to reveal, not only lots more fascinating paleontological information including a fossil file, but also an exciting, sometimes alarming pop-out creature, its prehistoric ancestor, which virtually springs to life before you.

Illustrator Mike Love provides the visuals and has done a terrific job in making every page alluring and exciting; indeed the design of the whole book is terrific.

I Really Want to Shout!

I Really Want to Shout!
Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti
Templar Books

Author Simon Philip and illustrator Lucia Gaggiotti deliver with high energy and humour, a third in their series of life’s vital lessons.

The opening lines of the little girl narrator go like this: ‘Sometimes I find it really tough / to make sure I’m not in a huff / because there’s simply so much stuff / that makes me want to shout.’

Well, it is pretty infuriating to have to eat all your ‘green and yucky’ things before having your pudding, as well as when you have stacks of things you want to do, your parents insist it’s bedtime.

School’s no better – getting blamed for someone else’s meanness is assuredly, a letting off steam with an explosive scream occasion.

Thank goodness then for a best friend with whom to share all that angst, somebody to make you laugh and offer rage-coping strategies – even if the teacher’s less than impressed.

Thank goodness too for an understanding Dad who will comfort and put forward other shout-control suggestions – not a total panacea but assuredly they go a long way towards solving the anger conundrum.

We all get angry occasionally, perhaps more often than normal at the moment, but like the determined protagonist here, knowing what to do about it makes SO much difference.

Youngsters need books like this rhyming, high octane drama more than ever right now: ones that offer ways forward in a fun non-preachy style that you can share and enjoy over and over.

I say BOO You say HOO

I say BOO You say HOO
John Kane
Templar Books

In his previous interactive ‘I say’ offering John Kane had readers shouting ‘underpants, underpants’ at the top of their voices. When you read this one a fair number of ‘stinky poo’ utterances will be required.

So, let’s find out what’s actually between the covers of the book. There’s a little ghost named Boo who (oops, nearly!) lives in a haunted house and is uncharacteristically, afraid of the dark.

Now to tell the story requires the reader’s help, duly prompted by a series of cues – verbal and visual. There’s a tree, dark (which means you must bark as per instructions,) oh yes, and crows – nose holding needed for a sighting of those particular corvids – this picture may prove a trifle challenging …

In fact I have to admit that by the end of the book I really didn’t know whether I was coming or going – barking (mad), shouting or indeed tearing my hair out.

As for the noxious emanations, I’m certainly not owning up to any of those;

and it’s as well Boo is in a hurry to reach home before dark.

However, even after telling us to bid the little apparition a fond farewell, the author has the chutzpah to issue an invitation for a further reading of the book.

The thing is, he knows (should that be hopes, on his part) and I know to my cost, what the answer will be once you’d shared it with an individual, a few children or indeed a whole class. It’s quite simply another superbly ridiculous repartee of to-ing and fro-ing.

Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Minibeasts / Flip Flap Snap! Pets

Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Minibeasts
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow

Award-winning illustrator Axel Scheffler has created another in the Flip Flap series and the possibilities just might be even more bonkers than ever with this one of minibeast muddle ups that can be created from the dozen real minibeasts – over 120 if my reckoning is correct.

So, what would you get if you cross a butterfly with a bluebottle? That would be none other than a buttottle – Flutter! Flutter! Bzzz! Bzzz!

And what about an earthworm with a grasshopper? That, naturally (or rather unnaturally), is an earthwopper.

Youngsters (and grown-ups) will delight in discovering all kinds of splendidly silly creatures and their weird and wonderful sounds in this playful book.

Giggles galore for sure thanks to Alex Scheffler..

You’ll have to wait till early September for this one:

Flip Flap Snap! Pets
Carmen Saldaña
Templar Books

Want to meet a rabbigar? Or maybe you’d like to see a gecky? By flipping the flaps little ones can create some petty permutations at the same time as learning a little from the pet narrators whose rhyming information is accessed by lifting the flaps on the left-hand side of each double spread.

The fun pop-up facial features that are part and parcel of Carmen Saldaña’s amusing illustrations will likely encourage toddlers to play for some time with this jolly mix-and-match book.

My Nana’s Garden

My Nana’s Garden
Dawn Casey and Jessica Courtney-Tickle
Templar Books

This is one of the most beautiful picture books about love and loss I’ve seen in a long time.

The little girl narrator visits her beloved grandmother through the different seasons of the year. Together they savour the joys of the tangly weeds or ‘wild flowers’ as Nana insists; harvest the bounties of fruit trees and wonder at the wealth of minibeasts and small animals that find their way among the jungle of brightly coloured flora.

There’s a crooked tree that’s home for an owl and a multitude of other creatures.

Evening is a lovely time too with both starlight and light from their bonfire to illuminate them as the two snuggle up together and bask in the warmth.

In late summer there’s an abundance of fruits, vegetables and seeds to collect,

but with the onset of autumn Nana starts to look frail.

Come winter it’s clear that like her garden, Nana is fading, letting go her hold on life and by the time her garden is clad in snow, only a robin sits on her chair. (A nod to John Burningham by Jessica perhaps there.)

The wheel of life never stops turning and eventually a tiny snowdrop peeps through. The little girl realises, that along with that revolving circle, her precious memories go on and on. Grandma is still there in the blossom on the trees, the smiling faces of the flowers, the starlit bonfire and in the wild abundance of all that flourishes in her garden. A garden that is now a refuge too, and a place wherein we see evidence of other changes in the narrator’s family.

Tremendous sensitivity is inherent in both Dawn’s lyrical rhyming text and the rich tapestry of flora and fauna and the Nana/child relationship shown in Jessica’s illustrations, which together epitomise that ‘a garden is a lovesome thing’.

Follow the Star / Santa’s Christmas Handbook

Here are a couple of Christmas crackers from Templar Publishing

Follow the Star
Andy Mansfield
Templar Books

‘A STAR appeared, shining bright, to mark a very special night.’ Thus begins the poetic telling of how the Star of Bethlehem lit the sky on the first Christmas and still shines forth today over the countryside, over cities where people hang their own stars and gather together to share their love for each other and to give gifts around the Christmas tree, atop which the star finally stops.

Andy Mansfield, pop-up book creator and paper engineer extraordinaire has worked his own magic on six scenes that, in diorama style, show all this, inspiring readers, certainly this reviewer, to in these increasingly troubled times, wish for peace all over the world not only during the Christmas season but throughout all seasons.

A beautiful book that would make a smashing gift.

Andy Mansfield also created the paper engineering for:

Santa’s Christmas Handbook
Christopher Edge, illustrated by Tim Hutchinson, Richard Johnson, Maggie Kneen, Sandy Nightingale, Mike Philips
Templar Publishing

This seasonal offering is written by Santa’s elves no less, and they let us in on a hithertofore well-kept secret: Santa is extremely accident-prone and when it comes to technology he needs more than a little assistance. Hence this handbook wherein Santa can find exactly what he needs to know so that he can whizz around the entire world in a single night and deliver presents to all those sleeping children and stay in tip-top condition while so doing.

Let’s see what the merry little men in green have to say then: first off we see his high tech. sleigh made so by the mechanic elves who have added such niceties as Booster rockets, an antenna – his link to the North Pole, snow lights, all terrain tracks should the vehicle have to deal with exceedingly bumpy ground. They’ve even given extra padding to the seat, added present nets to take care of any gifts that get dislodged and a host of other refinements.

Next comes a ‘know your reindeer’ guide to prevent mishaps during the journey; this includes a special first aid kit should any of the team get struck down by such ailments as Frost-hoof or Tinsellitis. Yes Dasher, Dancer and co. suffer from pollution too.

Further spreads deal with ensuring that the route can be completed by dawn: the sat nav or rather Santanav, is crucial if Santa is to take the fastest route; the “All About Presents’ instructions has sound advice to cover everything Santa needs to know on that topic. There’s a guide to gaining admission to all residences whether or not there’s a chimney;

instructions on how to behave once inside a house; a how to look after yourself regime;

a bumper assortment of entertainment for the journey and finally, visual ‘do not leave behind’ reminders.

It’s evident that the elves have not only created a comprehensive manual, but also had a wonderful time so doing. It’s totally hilarious, tongue-in-cheek interactive stuff from they who know. Those lucky enough to get this as a gift when Santa comes a-visiting will simply love it.

Books to Give

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll illustrated by Minalima
Harper Design

Beautifully designed and arrestingly illustrated with interactive features is the award-winning design firm Mina Lima’s latest classic from Harper Design. It’s clear that Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima (best known for their visual graphics for the Harry Potter films), thoroughly enjoyed doing the visuals for this weird and wonderful world created by Lewis Carroll.

Some of their delights include Alice with extendable limbs for growing and shrinking; Tweedledum and Tweedledee have layers of interchangeable articles of attire – brilliant;

an unfolding chess board map to navigate one’s way through the world of the Looking Glass; the Cheshire Cat has a pull-tab so you can make it appear and disappear leaving only a grin.

Reading this story beloved from childhood in an interactive way, opens up new insights and every page turn brings fresh delight be it the tiny motifs surrounding the numbers, the ornate borders, the flamingo croquet club that swings to whack the hedgehog, or the richly patterned, deliciously quirky full page scenes – the portrayal of the card playing King and Queen of Hearts is out-of-this-world genius.

I could go on at length extolling its delights but let me just say, this is a book to treasure, to buy and to give; it deserves a place in everybody’s collection.

Sam Usher
Templar Books

This super boxed set contains Sam Usher’s seasonal picture books Snow, Rain, Sun and Storm, all previously reviewed on this blog and now in a smaller format.

They portray the beautifully observed, very special relationship between a lively little boy and his Grandad (who likes to take his time), and the adventures they enjoy together

In each story Sam’s wonderful humorous ink and watercolour illustrations show the possibilities of the season to perfection.

What a cracking present this would make for any young child who doesn’t already own the full size editions of the tales.

The Story Orchestra: Swan Lake
illustrated by Jess Courtney-Tickle
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Here’s a short, look and listen retelling of a classic Tchaikovsky ballet, the listen element coming from the ten sound buttons – one per spread dropped into the scenes of the flock of swans as they fly past Siegfried; the lakeside at sunset where the four cygnets become dancers watched seemingly by deer, squirrels, birds, the trees even, and others. We see Odile dance with Prince Siegfried and dupe him into believing that she is Odette, the enchanted swan, watched we’re told by the wicked Rothbart who has placed the princess under a curse.

This version has a ‘happy ever after, on Earth’ ending.

At the back of the book, is a short biography of the composer, Tchaikovsky, with details about his composition of Swan Lake. Alongside you can replay the musical excerpts and read a discussion of each of the instruments, rhythms and musical techniques that make them so compellingly beautiful.
There’s also a glossary giving definitions of musical terms.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex
Dougal Dixon and Rachel Caldwell
Templar Books

Subtitled ‘ A Pop-Up Guide to Anatomy’, this totally splendid book from Dougal Dixon and Rachel Caldwell, zooms readers right up close to and within what is possibly THE most fearsome of the dinosaurs.

Dougal so he would have readers believe, is in attendance at the dissection of one of these incredible creatures – ‘a world first’ so he says as we’re treated to the stripping away of its layers.

First there’s the integumentary system (outer covering), then a look at the musculature system

beneath which is the skeletal support system. All of these reveal just how amazing an anatomy these super-strong, speedy predators had. It is after all called by many, the lizard king of all the dinosaurs and Rachel’s stunning illustrations certainly make that evident throughout – oh my goodness those daggers of teeth and colossal jaws – bone crushers they surely were.

The book is designed to give the impression of a Victorian science tome with medical notes, masses of facts, sketches of the instruments used in the dissection and of parts of the creatures and much more. There are flaps aplenty, many revealing additional facts as well as visual information

and the back endpapers have a glossary and a superb view of a Victorian laboratory cupboard filled with scientific paraphernalia.

Awesome through and through – the book as well as the dinosaur; what superb innovation; what brilliant pop-up paper-engineering. A wonderful interactive offering that makes my zoological dissections back in the day look totally pathetic; and yes I still have the set of instruments tucked away so I might have to dig them out for my next reading of this stunner of a book.

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.


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.


Simon Bartram
Templar Books

Meet Rufus, sharp toothed and super-stinky bottomed; an altogether splendid scary monster: not TIP-TOP scary though on account of having nobody to scare.

Off he goes in search of a Peopley Person to roar, rage and rant at, but all he can see in the desert is vampires and a witch. The forest is equally unpeopley as is the ocean and as for the sky, that’s full of spooky characters zooming through the clouds in various aeronautical machines.

Just when Rufus is on the point of giving up his search he hears music coming from a brightly lit barn: surely all that fun sounding noise must be coming from Peopley Persons within.

Seemingly not, for all that meets his eyes is this super spooky party scene …

Rufus is about to leave when a small ghost grabs his hand inviting him to have some fun.
Surprisingly, with the ghost’s help, fun is exactly what Rufus has and then comes a revelation …

Now Rufus has his chance to become that TIP-TOP SCARY MONSTER he’s always wanted to be. What will he do?

With its surprise finale, endearing protagonist and the unremarked clues scattered throughout Bartram’s bright acrylic scenes as to the possible reason for the seeming lack of Peopley Persons, this is a highly enjoyable teaser of a book.

Princes, a Princess and a Dragon

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The Red Prince
Charlie Roscoe and Tom Clohosy Cole
Templar Publishing
Set in a make believe kingdom named Avala, this wonderfully illustrated neo fairy tale is the story of how the young prince is kidnapped by strangers who invade the shores of the realm one night. Having seized the city, the invaders capture the prince hiding him away in a dark fortress dungeon.
Near to despair, he eventually manages to escape one dark night and off he dashes through the falling snow

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until he comes upon a young girl who tells him he must get to the city. You will find help in unlikely places, she reassures him. Her words prove true …

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for having crossed the island and managed to sneak through the city gates an amazing sight meets the red prince’s (and the reader’s) eyes …

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With all Avala sporting red prince garments, the strangers realize they are now faced with a near impossible task, so they return to their boats and sail away.
In his powerful illustrations Tom Clohosy Cole makes dramatic use of dark and light

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creating amazing atmospheric scenes employing all manner of angles and perspectives.

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The Princess Who Had No Fortune
Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb
Orchard Books
A princess (albeit one with a best pal talking cat) too poor and with too much work to do to go to the prince’s ball surely has its roots in Cinderella. However, in this neo fairy tale the work to be done is down to her father’s latest exploit: she has to prepare for a special party to celebrate the inaugural flight of the king’s latest flying machine. Cupcakes not court balls are her preoccupation, and so is getting the garden into shape for the event.
However, the young man who gets the gardening job is about as good at doing his task (he tries to cut the lawn with a penknife) as she is at baking cakes – terrible!

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When the two sit down together for a coffee break, the gardener makes some suggestions.

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The princess turns down his first idea of a “prince in shining armour” but what about “making a wish to your fairy godmother,” Now there’s a thought, even if you’re not sure you have one …
Ursula Jones witty tale is perfectly complemented by Sarah Gibb’s lush illustrations:

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her colorful collage and paint style scenes resemble a theatrical production and the alternate silhouette spreads, which put me in mind of those by Jan Pieńkowski, are stunningly beautiful.

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The Extremely Greedy Dragon
Jessica Barrah and Chris Saunders
QED Publishing
When a sleepy and very large dragon decides to take a snooze on the railway line at Little Chiddling the residents have a problem, or most of them do. Young Georgie Johnson however is eager for the reward money offered to anyone able to move the creature and so decides to try her luck.
The crisps she offers the huge beast hit the mark …

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and before long Georgie and the dragon are off in search of more tasty tidbits to satisfy what proves a very large appetite. Those they encounter however are happy to share their food in return for a little help from the dragon in drying out the picnic spot, lighting the barbeque fire, warning up the wedding venue and finally, once Georgie has persuaded the mayor, drying out the damp fireworks to make the festival go with a sparkle and a bang.

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With its inbuilt messages about not judging by appearances and eating healthily, there’s plenty of food for thought and discussion herein.

Use your local bookshop      localbookshops_NameImage-2

Exciting event in Piccadilly, London till 29th October : The Children’s Book Illustration Art Exhibition