Ten Cars and a Million Stars: A Counting Storybook

Ten Cars and a Million Stars: A Counting Storybook
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
Walker Books

Team Heapy/Heap (of ‘Very Little’ fame) have co-created a star-filled, car-filled counting story for young children.
It features big sister Alice who is helping her toddler brother begin to learn some number names and counting skills.
She begins with the familiar items that surround them – their pets

and toys.

Then as the numbers get larger, Alice’s imagination enlarges to encompass silly animals sporting funky hats and shoes,

building blocks and more until the count reaches 100 toys. Wow!
There’s more to learn though, and Alice is eager to take Baby beyond, to mind-expanding bigger numbers …

When their mum arrives on the scene, she too decides to add to the numerical opportunities, but what she provides is way beyond their ability to count.
With its wealth of counting opportunities (there are even 100 square endpapers), Teresa’s warm-hearted story is sure to count among the favourites of very young listeners, especially those taking their early steps in numeracy.
Sue’s enchanting illustrations are super-cute and a joy to look at.

The Spectacular City

The Spectacular City
Teresa Heapy and David Litchfield
Puffin Books (Red Fox)

Safely back from their moon trip in The Marvellous Moon Map, friends Mouse and Bear are off on a new adventure.

Dazzled by the bright lights, sparkle, shine and glitter, Mouse is eager to leave the dark woods and head for Spectacular City. Ever loyal, Bear agrees to accompany him. “I’ve got you and you’ve got me,” he reminds Mouse as they sally forth.

It’s not long before there appears from an alleyway, a character introducing herself as Cat and offering to show them around the city.

With Cat in the lead, they roam all over the city, through its neon-lit alleys and kaleidoscope streets

but Mouse’s appetite for the bright lights seems insatiable; “More light!” he requests, whereupon Cat invites him to the Glitz – a restaurant atop a skyscraper.

It’s a place that doesn’t admit bears and so having checked with his best pal, Mouse leaves him at the door. Bear reminds him once again “… just call and I’ll come.”

As they sit admiring the glowing river of light down below, Mouse is ready to order his meal almost immediately: Cheese Special is his choice. But what perfectly seasoned meal, on or perhaps off the menu, does Cat have in mind?

Perhaps it’s time for Mouse to bring to mind those “ … just call, and I’ll come.” words of Bear’s before it’s too late …

One cannot help admiring both Mouse’s insatiable curiosity and sense of adventure as well as Bear’s unfailing friendship and warm-heartedness, both of which radiate from the pages of Teresa’s wonderful story and shine forth out of David’s dazzlingly gorgeous, expansive scenes and vignettes.

Having just spend the weekend with visitors including two enthusiastic paper-plane making boys, (I’m still finding their creations around the house), I’m somewhat glad they left before this smashing book arrived. I’m sure its final spread – courtesy of bear – would have prompted a whole lot more paper folding and planes whizzing about the place.

The Marvellous Moon Map

The Marvellous Moon Map
Teresa Heapy and David Litchfield
Red Fox

Mouse and Bear share a house in the big, dark woods, so when Mouse announces that he’s off to find the moon, accompanied only by a the Moon Map he’s in the process of making, Bear offers to accompany him.
Mouse turns him down: “I don’t need your help – I’m the Moon map inventor!” he tells his friend; and once the map is complete, off he goes.

He tunnels, climbs and clambers up into the blackness of the woods. Suddenly, as he’s urging himself forwards who should emerge from the shadows but his ursine pal. Once again his help is refused, although Mouse cannot, so he admits, see his map in the darkness: but Bear responds with “I know, Mouse, … But I’ve got you, and you’ve got me – so we’ll be all right.
The two proceed with Mouse leading the way, until they reach a stretch of water; a stretch far too wide for them to swim across.

Once again Bear is reassuring. He then takes the map and to Mouse’s consternation, starts folding it.

Eventually, after some manipulation, and the odd bit of grumbling from Mouse, there before them is …

But in such a tiny craft, against such high waves, will they ever manage to find the moon?
Teresa’s lovely story with its two endearing characters, the reassuring repetition of Bear’s words of encouragement and the delightful surprise finale find, combined with David Litchfield’s entrancing illustrations make for what I’m sure will become a storytime favourite.

Very Little Rapunzel / Big Little Hippo

Very Little Rapunzel
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
Picture Corgi
Meet Very Little Rapunzel, star of the fourth of the Very Little fairy tale series. She is, so her mum insists in need of a haircut but refuses to visit the hairdresser’s. New hairstyles are tried but none can curb the abundance of her unruly tresses and in a paddy, the little miss hurls her Big Box of Hair Things out of the tower right down to where a Very Little Prince happens to be standing.
Rapunzel lowers her hair at his request and up climbs the prince to play with her. Before you can say itch, both Prince and Rapunzel are scratching furiously and are discovered to have nits.
Treatment ensues with lots and lots … of combing …

complaining, washing and sploshing …

until a certain Very Little miss wilful has a change of heart. She grabs the scissors and …

which leaves her playmate rather stranded, but not for too long. Thanks to some imaginative hair styling, an escape route and more is fashioned by the teasy weezy trio culminating in fun and games for all.
With that disarming smile and spirit of independence, Very Little Rapunzel is set to charm her way into the affections of a whole host of very little listeners.

Big Little Hippo
Valeri Gorbachev
Sterling
The smallest of his family and much smaller than big old Crocodile, very tall Giraffe and giant Elephant,

Little Hippo is far from happy with his lack of stature. His mother’s assurances that he’ll eventually be big like his parents offer no comfort as he wanders among huge trees and tall grasses feeling like the smallest creature in the entire world. Until that is he comes upon a tiny beetle struggling to turn itself the right way up. Little Hippo rescues the creature …

and the words of thanks from its family, “Thank you, Big Hippo!” truly make his day and more importantly change the way he sees himself. “I’m big now!” he announces as he rushes, full of new-found confidence, to tell his mother, passing on the way, all those animals whose largeness had previously made him feel so insignificant.
Proud of his deed of kindness, she renames him “Big Little Hippo”, which is just perfect.
Perspective and scale are effectively and playfully used in Gorbachev’s ink and watercolour scenes of Little Hippo and the other jungle animals in this sweet tale of finding where you fit in the world.

I’ve signed the charter  

Fairy Tales Anew

DSCN7193 (709x800)

Very Little Sleeping Beauty
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap,
Picture Corgi
Sleeping Beauty – albeit of the Very Little kind – she may be, but our diminutive heroine certainly knows all the delaying tactics where bedtime is concerned. On this particular bedtime – the eve of her birthday – she has her Daddy wrapped around her little finger. Even after a proper sing-song, several stories, tickles, dancing and bed bouncing she’s still not ready to settle down.

DSCN7194 (800x600)

Demands for her Bear, blanket and a drink in her “special-est cup” are issued and fulfilled; well not the cup, which seems to have gone missing. And that’s when the trouble starts. Waiting is not one of Very Little Sleeping Beauty’s strong points and after what seems to her an inordinately long wait, she’s off round the castle in search of her parents and her Aunty Fairy.

DSCN7195 (800x600)

It’s her Aunty that she duly discovers behind the door and what’s more, there’s a large and ‘special’ present there too. Needless to say the young miss cannot contain herself and off comes the wrapping paper to reveal …

DSCN7355 (800x600)

Despite Aunty’s warnings our almost birthday girl is determined to use it for her own purposes: “I do driving!” she enthuses, “BRRMM BRRRRMMMMM! Beep beeeep!”. But, guess what – she drives it to destruction and Aunty Fairy is not impressed at all. Shouting ensues – that’s the Aunty; and tears – that’s Very Little Sleeping Beauty – both loud enough to bring Daddy running in.

DSCN7196 (800x600)

Apologies all round come next; and all this weeping and wailing has at last worn out the tiny princess, so much so that she falls fast asleep (it’s now almost sunrise) and the birthday girl’s slumbers last right through until evening time on her special day, whereupon she wakes saying, “I have party!” and, of course, ‘party’ she has …

DSCN7197 (800x600)

This is another enchanting addition to the Heapy/Heap Very Little series and the maps on the inside front and back covers suggest more to come: I hope so. Reading these books aloud is a delight and I can’t wait for my first opportunity to grab some suitably small children and share this one with them.

DSCN7231 (800x600)

Cinderella and her Very Bossy Sisters
Mark Sperring and Barbara Bongini
Scholastic Children’s Books
In this upbeat, rather chatty style rendering of the traditional story, Cinderella certainly is at the beck and call of her extremely bossy sisters, Greta and Gerta, who like to issue all their orders in rhyme – to Cinders at least. And in addition to all the housework, Cinders can turn her hand to maintenance of another kind too …

DSCN7232 (800x600)

When the invitation from the palace arrives inviting them all to the ball, Cinders’ sisters are quick to tell her she can’t go. They start issuing their orders forthwith … “Squeeze the pimples on our chins,/ pluck that hair out from our noses,” (no way hosay) “Drench us both in perfume, /till we smell … SWEET AS ROSES!” (that I’d doubt) but orders are orders.
Duty duly done and sisters departed, who should drop in but a certain Fairy Godmother who soon has Cinders bedecked in finery, glass-slipper shod and with suitable vehicle to convey her to the palace. Having been warned about the midnight undoing of the spell, off she goes, has the time of her life at the ball and does the expected midnight dash leaving a slipper and a distraught prince behind.
Said prince does the rounds of the neighbourhood next day, eventually identifies the slipper’s owner and weds her …

DSCN7235 (800x600)

leaving the awful sisters to sulk and serve themselves. Apart from on Sundays that is, when they choose to inflict their company upon the happily married couple, one of whom has a rather rewarding and slightly rude way of dealing with the visitors should their bossiness become unbearable (which it often did).

DSCN7236 (800x600)

Barbara Bongini has made the ugly sisters a pair of outlandishly frilly-frocked madams, Cinders’ fairy godmother a diminutive, rather rotund, bespectacled being …

DSCN7233 (800x600)

and Cinderella herself a multi-talented, trouser-wearing miss, all of which contributes to making this an amusing take on the original; oh and there’s a ginger and white moggy that seems to find its way into pretty much every scene too.

localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

Very Little Cinderella

DSCN3997 (800x600)

Very Little Cinderella
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
Doubleday
Very Little Cinderella, with her “lello boots” and “BIG blue scooter” is truly adorable. So too is this the second ‘Very Little’ story to come from the partnership of Heapy and Heap. The basic story is pretty much left intact with Cinderella doing the cleaning, a fairy godmother (aka the babysitter) and a very patient one she turns out to be, an outing to the ball – that’s for the Ugly Sisters of course, not VLC who is left at home distraught, temporarily at least. But I did say the basic plot remains, so our tiny heroine does get to go to the ball, or party as it’s called here. Small she may be, but Very Little Cinderella has an enormous amount of determination, so it’s only after a whole lot of palaver over her choice of attire

DSCN4019 (800x600)

and mode of transport to said party.

DSCN4018 (800x600)

There’s dancing, – lots of it, a midnight-striking clock and a mad dash home which leaves a soon distraught VLC minus one of her ‘lello boots. There follows the arrival of a prince – a Very Little prince clutching a very little boot (and a small bunny), and a triumphant “It fits me!”

DSCN4017 (800x600)

and another meeting of the Prince and Cinderella. But remember these two are both Very Littles so it has to be a play-date and of course, ‘they both played happily ever after.’
Another certain winner for this author/artist partnership. Whither next I wonder…

DSCN4028 (800x600)

The girls in one of the groups I shared the story with were inspired to design new dresses for VLC to wear to the party.

 

On the subject of wonderful duos, it’s great to see paperback reissues of two stories about one of my very favourite young characters, Emily Brown, and constant companion, Stanley, her much-loved old grey rabbit.
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
Emily Brown and the Thing
Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books
In the first, young Emily asserts her ownership of Stanley in no uncertain terms when Queen Gloriana attempts to procure him for herself, although she does have a put up with his temporary absence when her majesty’s Special Commandos creep into her bedroom and steal him one night as Emily sleeps.

DSCN4002 (800x600)

The Thing referred to in the title of the second story is a large greenish scriffily-scraffily creature that lands up on Emily Brown’s windowsill one night when out searching for his cuddly. The Thing seeks Emily’s help in his hunt but even when they find the cuddly quite soon, it’s only the beginning of what turns out to be a very disturbed night for young Emily: is there to be no end to the demands that Thing makes on her during the course of an action-packed few hours until she finally discovers the real cause of the Thing’s restlessness.
Wonderful stuff.

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Tinies and Monsters

DSCN1406

Very Little Red Riding Hood
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
David Fickling Books
With Red Teddy in hand and blanket, tea-set and a box of cakes safely stowed in her pull along bag, Very Little Red Riding Hood sets out to her Grandmama’s for a sleepover. Before long, what should she meet but a Wolf. “A Foxie!” she cries in delight giving him a big hug. More than a little put out at her lack of fear and her refusal to give him a cake, the Wolf suggests gathering a bouquet for Grandmama. Red – insists our feisty young heroine, inviting ‘Foxie’ to a game of chase all the way to Grandmama’s and a ‘cuppatea’ when they get there. But is this a step too far? Well, there’s a rib-tickling ending but if you want to find out what happens, then get your hands on this sweetly funny variation of the traditional story.
With her toddler talk and winning smile, Very Little Red Riding Hood is an absolute charmer.

DSCN1386

Rosa and Nina sharing Little Red’s exploits

The end papers show the route she took to her Grandmama’s house but also a number of other homes occupied by ‘Very Little’ fairy tale characters. Is this then the start of a series? I do hope so. Certainly this first time collaboration between Heapy and Heap is a whole heap of fun.
Buy from Amazon

The Tiny King
Taro Miura
Walker Books
In a castle far away lived a king. But the castle was very, very big and the king was a very, very Tiny King. The Tiny King had a big army and a big, big table for his meals but delicious food isn’t much fun if you’re all alone. It’s a good thing then, that the Tiny King fell head over heels in love with a princess, albeit a Big Princess and she agreed to be his wife. Before long, the Tiny King and the Big Queen had lots of children and what seemed like a very big castle for one Tiny King now felt just right with ten children playing and laughing the whole day.
Of course, big families mean lots of sharing: sharing meals, sharing the space on the big white horse’s back and sharing a riotous bath time; and what comes of sharing? Happiness; certainly that’s so in the case of the Tiny King.
Japanese artist and author, Taro Muira uses precision, patterned cut-outs in bold, bright colours and white, to construct simple shaped collage scenes, which stand out dramatically against flat black backgrounds. These scenes remind me of scenes from young children’s small world and construction play.

DSCN1396

Told in a straightforward manner, this simple neo fairy tale is a delight to share with under fives.
(Quite apart from the story, there is a wealth of learning opportunities here: talking about sharing, counting, identifying shapes, mathematical language and concepts relating to size, pattern making, block play, collage and small world castle play.)
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1409

Upside Down Babies
Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds
Andersen Press
There is a lovely twist at the end of this funny rhyming tale of a world turned upside down when ‘the earth went blue and the sky went brown.’ On this fateful topsy-turvy day, all the baby animals find themselves with the wrong mothers. What is Mummy Camel to do when confronted with a baby Polar Bear in the middle of the desert and baby Rooster’s dawn greeting of “Cock-a doodle-dee” definitely does not go down well with a sleepy Mummy Owl trying to get some shut eye in her tree.
With its bold, bright, wonderfully expressive pictures of the consternation all round, and a text that trips off the tongue, this is one to share  with the under sixes and will prompt many an encore to the huge enjoyment of readers and listeners alike.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1403

Enormouse
Angie Morgan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Enormouse was big; much, much bigger than all the other mice in Mouse House. But being big had its advantages. Enormouse could lift REALLY heavy cheese, reach high up things and give lifts to tired-legged little mice. One day while out exploring he and his best friend Tinymouse find a large book with pictures of furry animals. That’s when Tinymouse concludes that his pal is actually A RAT. How the other mice laugh at poor Enormouse. Off he goes to find a new home with the rats but, what a shock he gets on arriving at ‘Rats’ House’; there’s mess everywhere. His offer to clean up is laughed at and once again Enormouse feels at odds with his housemates. In the meantime, his mouse friends have seen the error of their ways and set off in the hope of bringing their absent friend back home. But it’s now dark and they don’t know where to go…
From the mouse photo portrait endpapers, every turn of the page brings much to talk about and explore in the mixed media illustrations. The squalor of the rats’ house is truly disgusting with the grubby rodents lolling amongst half eaten fruit, discarded chips, over-turned cans, fish bones, filth and flies. You can almost smell the pong.

DSCN1402

Rosa couldn’t resist coming to see what we were so disgusted at.

The story too offers plenty of food for thought with its themes of not judging by appearances, self-belief, friendship and finding ones place in the world.
Buy from Amazon

Here Be Monsters
Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene
Macmillan Children’s Books
With the fiercest pirate crew and the fastest pirate ship, fearless Captain Cut-Throat is the meanest pirate to sail the seas. So, when he hears of an island strewn with giant gemstones he is determined to set sail straight away. His crew members though are far from happy; monsters are hiding in the mist, so the legend tells. At first all goes well but then they reach the MIST from which emanates all manner of alarming sounds. “Sail on!” commands the Captain and they do – into the swirling white. ‘ “Here be monsters!” cried the lookout…
‘ “Nonsense!” growled the Captain. “Monsters simply don’t exist.” ‘

DSCN1394

And so he maintains, heading on, unaware of the diminishing crew numbers, until an island comes into view. Once ashore, the penny finally drops but undaunted, the greedy Captain has his mind only on those giant jewels littering the shore. Oh foolish one!
Emmett’s riotous rollicking rhyme rattles along apace and when read aloud, it will have delighted audiences joining in with the repeated refrain of the fearless captain, as they see what he does not – his crew disappearing one by one.
Poly Bernatene draws his inspiration for the dastardly crew from the less attractive members of the animal kingdom with crow, rat, crocodile and blue-bottomed baboon all featuring. The almost filmic quality of his arresting illustrations adds to the dramatic impact of the story.
Buy from Amazon