The Grizzly Itch

The Grizzly Itch
Victoria Cassanell
Macmillan Children’s Books

What do you do if you wake from your winter slumbers with an itch? If you’re a bear of the grizzly kind then you’d most likely go in search of a tree for some scratching relief. That’s exactly what Victoria Cassanell’s Bear does in her debut picture book.
There’s a major snag though, in the form of a rather large queue at Bear’s favourite scratching tree.

Even worse, when it comes to his turn, this happens …

The beaver in question is apologetic and being a beaver, is also fond of trees and familiar with a good many in the vicinity. He takes Bear and together they hunt in the forest.

After seeing several that just don’t cut it as a suitable back scratcher, they come upon one beside the river that looks promising. Up Bear climbs, wobbles along a branch and …

Wet through, Bear despairs of ever finding a tree to do what he so badly desires. Beaver sitting beside him, is sympathetic and as it happens rather more …

By nightfall a firm friendship has been forged: I’ll say no more on the matter, other than this is a delight to read aloud and Victoria’s illustrations are smashing. Her portrayal of both the animal characters and their natural habitat, painted in ‘layered watercolour’ are captivating. I love the different view points especially that of Beaver and Bear looking upwards to the top of the tree Bear then climbs; and that back view of the two animals sitting side-by-side.

Funny, full of heart and a pleasure to read aloud, this story has vital messages about the relative importance of friends and ‘things’, and the surprising things that can happen if you offer help to others.

Noodle Bear

Noodle Bear
Mark Gravas
Walker Books

When spring arrives the animals celebrate with a party but there’s a notable absentee, Bear. Fox, the party organiser goes off in search of her friend, taking with her an offering of snacks only to find Bear asleep having spent all winter bingeing on his favourite noodles and watching Noodle Knockout on TV.

So obsessed with noodles is he that instead of consuming the treat he’s been left, all he can think of is yet more noodles.
None of his friends can supply the necessary

and eventually Bear decides to travel to the big city and take part in his favourite game show.

Unsurprisingly, he has no trouble securing the Grand Noodle Champion’s crown

and quickly becomes a celebrity with his own show.

Satisfying though all this fame and unlimited noodles might be, before long, Bear realises that there are other more important things in life – his friends and all the fun things they did together. Only these can really fill the emptiness he feels deep inside. So it’s a long journey back to the forest where awaits a celebratory party thrown by his best pal, Fox; guess who supplies the noodles.

There’s a comic, cartoony feel to this cautionary tale of having too much of a good thing that will surely lure screen-obsessed little humans away from their digital devices for a while.

The Go-Away Bird

The Go-Away Bird
Julia Donaldson and Catherine Rayner
Macmillan Children’s Books

The Go-Away-bird is a real African species (so named after its call that sounds as though it’s warning others when it sees danger).

Julia Donaldson makes her bird a loner that drives away potential friends, although apparently go-away birds can sometimes be found in groups of as many as thirty. So let’s meet the story one right away.

‘The Go-Away bird sat up in her nest, / With her fine grey wings and her fine grey crest.’

Thus begins this story wherein one after another the Chit-Chat bird, the Peck- Peck bird, the Flip-Flap bird approach her tree wanting to talk, share a meal or fly with her and each is insulted and given the same “Go away! Go away! Go away!” rejection.

Then along comes the very large and dangerous Get-You bird with just one thing in mind – a tasty meal. Oh no!

Luckily for the Go-away bird along comes a Come-back bird willing to stick his beak out and summon his friends.

Now it looks as though it’s time for the naysayer to understand the need for, and appreciate, friendship after all.

This is a stellar author/artist partnership. Julia’s witty, bouncy rhyming text is pure pleasure to read aloud and highly join-in-able; and Catherine’s art is simply awesome – richly coloured and textured, superbly expressive: every spread is a joy to linger over – after you’ve read the story aloud once first.

A golden tale about the importance of friendship, co-operation and teamwork that is just perfect for sharing and discussing.

Angry Cookie

Angry Cookie
Laura Dockrill and Maria Karipidou
Walker Books

Who can resist the words of the chief protagonist on the back cover: “Don’t even think about opening this book, you nosy noodle. I’m warning you. I am very angry.”
Of course, like me you will immediately open the book and discover that Cookie IS angry, very angry and causing him to have daylight flooding into the book and thus his bedroom, is quite simply, intolerable.

However since we’ve already committed that outrageous act and are apparently not going anywhere, the biccy feels bound to share the reasons why he’s so aggrieved.

It’s on account of the previous day – a terrible one by all accounts – that began when flat mate Barbra insisted on playing the same tune on her new recorder over and over. (Cookie has my sympathies there.)

Next came running out of his favourite sweet toothpaste and having to use an unpleasant spicy one instead.

Even worse though was the bad haircut that forced our cookie narrator to wear an ill-fitting hat; unsurprisingly nobody makes hats for cookies, hence the bad fit that makes him a source of amusement to others.

If you can believe it though, the day has to throw in an even bigger disaster. Angry Cookie heads to the ice cream parlour, his heart set on his favourite vanilla sundae topped with all manner of yummy sprinkles and served in a tall glass. But – I’m sure you’ve already guessed – they’ve run out. Can you blame the poor thing for his anger?

Then on the way home along comes a bird that almost makes a meal of Angry Cookie himself;

but perhaps there is one consolation. Could our devotion and friendship be the key to a happier Cookie? After all we have stuck around despite all that the self-confessed ‘grumpy lump, horrid humph’ has said and done, so it’s worth waiting around a little longer to see if happiness is lurking somewhere under that tiny titfer.

What a deliciously quirky, witty tale Laura Dockrill has cooked up. Young children will adore this grump of a character and likely identify with his moody moaning.

Maria Karipidou has done a terrific job portraying Angry Cookie, making him, despite all that ranting, a character one cannot help but love right from the start.

Destined to become an early years storytime favourite methinks, and a great starting point for talking about emotions.

Lionel and the Lion’s Share

Lionel and the Lion’s Share
Lou Peacock and Lisa Sheenan
Nosy Crow

Lionel is a lion with sharing a problem – a big one; in fact he does NOT like to share at all. More than that, he’ll go out of his way to prevent one of the other animals from having something they really want.

On Monday he’s in the music shop choosing himself an instrument and is certainly spoilt for choice. Elsa elephant is also shopping there and has set her heart on the shiny tambourine when who should snatch it from her grasp to add to the drum and tuba he’s already clutching but greedy Lionel.

A similar thing happens on Tuesday in the hat shop. Lionel needs but a single hat but has already purchased ten when he notices Benji eyeing up the banana titfa. No prizes for guessing who grabs that one for himself too …

And so it goes on: Wednesday sees him disappointing Rosie rabbit and on Thursday at Chloe’s party …

he scoffs the entire cake., again claiming it only right he gets’ “the lion’s share.” Cries of ‘I wish you would share’ are now replaced with a chorus of “we wish you would share.
This time however, with Chloe in tears, the other animals have had enough of Lionel’s greed and tell him what they think of him in no uncertain terms.

It’s a furious lion that stomps off home but by the time he reaches there, he has come to a very important realisation: it’s time to make amends …
Can Lionel save the day after all?

With opportunities for joining in with the “That’s not fair, Lionel” protestation of the other animals and his “But I’m a lion … and I get the lion’s share” responses, this is a great book to share and discuss with young children.
Lisa Sheenan’s scenes of greed and disappointment capture the animals’ feelings beautifully and each spread offers plenty to interest and explore.

Ellena enjoying the story.