The Wide, Wide Sea

The Wide, Wide Sea
Anna Wilson and Jenny Lovlie
Nosy Crow

Skilfully woven together are wild swimmer and author Anna Wilson’s lyrical narrative and Jenny Lovlie’s gorgeous detailed illustrations in this picture book with a vitally important message about plastic pollution.

Gran and the child narrator love to visit the sea together, spending time exploring the flora and fauna along the shoreline and seeing what treasures the waves have thrown up. Most exciting though is their sighting of a seal: the child imagines being a seal too

and when it disappears, sits watching the sea birds until a violent storm blows in and Gran says it’s time to head home.

Next morning the beach looks awful – ‘Wild, Broken. Messy.’ and strewn with litter. The sky ‘sulky dove-grey’ and the air ‘quiet and frowning.’ Who or what has created this havoc? And can it be fixed? …

Happily yes in this story; but what really needs to happen is every one of us must accept their responsibility for plastic pollution and, for the sake of the environment, sea creatures such as the seal especially, take their rubbish home.

Published in collaboration with The National Trust who protect over 700 miles of wild coastline in the UK this is a must have book for primary classes to share, discuss and act upon its message.

Let’s Go For a Walk / Look What I Found at the Seaside

Let’s Go For a Walk
Ranger Hamza and Kate Kronreif
Ivy Kids

In the company of Ranger Hamza, any walk will be an experience that engages all the senses. No matter where or when you go there’s sure to be a wealth of interesting sights, sounds, smells and exciting tactile things to feel with our hands. Best to do as Ranger Hamza advises though and take a copy of this book along, then suitably attired and with eyes and ears open, everyone is ready to sally forth.

The first focus is colour and youngsters are encouraged to spot red things and of course, what is found will depend on the season and to some extent the surroundings.
Then what about trying to spy things tall, wide or small; or feeling various things like these walkers are doing on the sea shore.

Not all smells are to be savoured; we all enjoy different ones. I for instance would not want to be in close proximity of fresh fish or chimney smoke but would love to inhale the aroma of lavender or baking bread. The important thing is to do as the ranger suggests and ‘use our noses’.

Each double spread has a new focus: there are shapes, minibeasts, sounds,

letters and numbers, pairs of objects, different materials that things are made of. The dark makes everything look different, shadowy perhaps, or you might spot some nocturnal creatures or star patterns if you walk at night.
To see other things up high though, it’s better to walk in the daytime when the clouds sometimes look amazing; while focussing on the ground can be equally rewarding with plants popping up in unexpected places and all kinds of patterns created either by humans or by nature.

With wildlife photographer and CBeebies Ranger Manza as guide and Kate Kronreif as illustrator, this guided book walk is sure to make youngsters want to undertake the real thing. Nature and being able to get outdoors are what have kept so many of us – young and not so young – sane over the past year and now I’m pretty sure that henceforward, none of us will take these things for granted. Are you ready, ‘Let’s Go For a Walk’ …

Look What I Found at the Seaside
Moira Butterfield and Jesús Verona
Nosy Crow

There are wonders aplenty waiting to be found if you take a stroll on the seashore with the characters in this smashing book (a companion to Look What I Found in the Woods), also published in collaboration with the National Trust).

Every spread is packed with exciting things to discover, the first being the wealth of different shaped seashells, be they curly and shining bright ‘like a pearl’,

long and curly, opening like a pair of wings or perhaps a purse.

The rock pools too are full of exciting patterned pebbles, fish and other small sea creatures; among the seaweed too are more treasures and sometimes foraging seagulls. Watch out for crabs scuttling among the fronds or peeping out of shells.

It’s interesting to imagine what a mermaid might keep in one of those mermaid’s purses close to the cave mouth …

There’s much more too if you follow the cliff path; maybe some fossils, butterflies, bees and seaside flowers; and if you are quiet you just might come upon some wonderful sea birds tucked away among the rocks.

Yes, the seaside is a veritable treasure trove but it’s important to collect thoughtfully, doing no harm and leaving nothing but your footprints behind.

Told through a gentle rhyming narrative and also bursting with fascinating facts, and illustrated with alluring scenes of the children investigating the natural world, this will surely get youngsters enthused to get out and explore nature.

Science School / Out and About Minibeast Explorer

Science School
Laura Minter & Tia Williams
Button Books

Covering such topics as magnetism, gravity, change of state, oxidation, the growth of fungus and much more – all relating to basic scientific principles, the latest collaboration from Laura Minter and Tia Williams offers thirty STEM experiments, some crafty, for youngsters to try at home.

None of the activities require sophisticated equipment; rather they can be done at home with everyday materials you’re already likely to have knocking around somewhere. A list of what’s needed is given at the start of each project and there are photographs showing what to do, beneath each of which are step-by-step instructions, and, the science behind the experiment is concisely explained in the final ‘Science Made Simple’ paragraph(s) that often takes the science a bit further too.

My experimenters especially enjoyed making the “Magnetic Dancing Robots’ and other characters. 

Important at all times, but even more so as COVID is still with us, is the experiment showing the difference after around 10 days to three slices of bread: the first wiped all over with unwashed hands; the second wiped with sanitised hands and the third with hands that have been thoroughly washed with warm soapy water for 20+ seconds, completely dried and then wiped on slice number 3 (make sure the bag into which each is placed is labelled before putting it in a dark place.)

Providing hours of fun learning, this book is particularly useful for homeschooling.

Out and About Minibeast Explorer
Robyn Swift, illustrated by Hannah Alice
Nosy Crow

Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this handy guide for youngsters features more than sixty minibeasts about which Robyn Swift presents a wealth of information related to identification, lifecycles, habitats, anatomy and more. Did you know that a decapitated cockroach is able to live for up to nine days; that the blood of slugs is green, or that seagull sized dragonflies lived before dinosaurs roamed the earth?

The importance of minibeasts is explained and also included are some pages of activities, a classification chart and a quiz.

Hannah Alice’s illustrations of the creatures are clear and easily recognisable making this a super little book to tuck into a backpack when you go out and about no matter if it be in town, countryside or the garden.

I am a Fish / Birch Trees, Bluebells and other British Plants

I am a Fish
Isabel Otter and Fernando Martin
Little Tiger

This is a companion volume to I am a Bird from the same team. Using an un-named fish, youngsters are introduced to the general characteristics of a fish and then dive underwater to discover a variety of aquatic habitats and learn something of fishes’ habits (we meet both herbivores and carnivores),

shapes, size and distinguishing features. Mention is made that ‘rays don’t have bones’ but that they and the sharks illustrated alongside, are cartilaginous fish is not stated.
If you’ve ever wondered whether or not fish sleep, this subject is discussed on another of the vibrant spreads while another spread introduces seahorses, which some little ones might be surprised to discover are actually classed as fish.
The chatty narrative and arresting subaquatic scenes make this a book for early years audiences and foundation stage topic boxes.

Birch Trees, Bluebells and other British Plants
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow

Here’s a gorgeous ‘Nature Sticker Books’ to lift the spirits. Published in collaboration with the National Trust, it contains eleven beautiful scenes by Nikki Dyson that are brimming over with the bounties of nature whatever the season.

It starts with spring and its gorgeous insect-attracting blossom and wild flowers aplenty. Summer scenes show gardens are full of bright flowers and butterflies, as well as meadows of poppies, daisies and other composites. Summer’s a good time to visit a pond or perhaps the coast: those locations too, have a wealth of beautiful wild plants and birds. Come autumn ripening berries are waiting to be gathered and the deciduous trees take on their yellow, orange and red hues while in gardens and allotments there are vegetables aplenty as well as herbs to pick and you’re likely to come across lots of minibeasts that also like to have a nibble.
Finally winter comes around when there is much less colour but there are still wonderful flora and fauna to discover when you brave those chills.

Each spread has a couple of introductory factual paragraphs as well as suggestions for adding some of the relevant stickers provided in the centre of the book. There’s also a checklist of the plants in the book so young naturalists can enjoy an additional I-spy element.

The Castle the King Built

The Castle the King Built
Rebecca Colby and Tom Froese
Nosy Crow

Using the rhythmic pattern and structure of the nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built, Rebecca Crosby cleverly mixes fact and fiction to create a story of the building of a medieval castle.

We meet those involved in its creation – stonemasons, carpenters

and smiths, as well as, once it’s built, the people who contribute to the castle’s functioning – grooms, knights, merchants, bakers, servants, minstrels and of course, ruler of the land -the king himself.

The final spread presents the entire cast of characters each of them explaining their part (this includes a few women residents not mentioned in the main text)

Rebecca’s skilful use of rhyme and rhythm ensures that the book reads aloud well and Tom Froese uses an appropriate retro style for his striking illustrations helping to create the long ago atmosphere of those days of yore when knights would joust and singing minstrels pipe and strum.

A thoroughly well-presented, enticing and gently educative book for classroom sharing and individual reading, published in collaboration with the National Trust. I specially like the final acknowledgement that everyone included played their part in the life of the making of the castle.

Out of Nowhere

Out of Nowhere
Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Nosy Crow

Following his superb The Suitcase picture book, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros has created another compelling tale, this time on the theme of enduring friendship.

The story begins as the friendship is in its first stage with the arrival ’out of nowhere’ of caterpillar into the world of a beetle (the narrator). The two become friends eating together, and watching the moon come up.

One morning the beetle awakes to find no sign of caterpillar and unaware of the presence or significance of something close by…

Beetle waits, scouring the landscape until eventually he spies through his binoculars something that could be his friend. Heavily weighed down by a basket and trying to feel strong, he treks off through the forest to search,

until he discovers that it’s not her after all – he’s made a huge mistake. Now what? Feeling tired and dejected our seeker decides to rest and revive himself before attempting that long return journey. While so doing, ‘out of nowhere, someone suddenly arrived’

After closer inspection, glimmerings of recognition give way, to absolute joy and a celebratory sharing of food …

Chris’s portrayal of a friendship that changes and grows, (as cherished friendships do) is uplifting and profound. His uncluttered illustrations rendered in a minimal colour palette are highly effective and simply stunning, showing young readers/listeners the way to be a true friend.

Mother and Daughter Dress-Up Dolls: Fashion from Long Ago / How to Speak Astromech with BB-8

These two books present opportunities to learn something new and have great fun in so doing.

Mother and Daughter Dress-Up Dolls: Fashion from Long Ago
Gracie Swan and Felicity French
Nosy Crow (in collaboration with the National Trust)

With this hardback book, children can press out eight dolls – four large and four small – mothers and daughters – dress them and learn lots about fashion from Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian times, as well as the Twenties, the Thirties and every other decade through to the 1970s.

Isabella and her mother Beatrice don their finest attire to attend a medieval banquet anticipating tasty food, loud music and acrobats to entertain them.

Margery and daughter Alice will head to the market once they’ve put on their warm woollen dresses, shawls and bonnets hoping to sell all their homemade bread.

Turn each of the press-out garments around and there’s an alternative story with two different characters, each time – a clever idea that provides a whole set of new opportunities.

Children will love discovering what their older relations wore and those before them, when they reach the twentieth century characters and their geometric mini-dresses, those jump suits, bell bottoms-trousers, maxi dresses and more. It’s amazing how everything comes around again!

In addition to the main items of clothing there’s a page of accessories and shoes to complete every one of the forty outfits. What more can aspiring fashionistas ask? Perhaps for a timeline – but there’s even one of those on the back inside cover.

Hours of fun learning to be had from this fascinating activity book.

How to Speak Astromech with BB-8
I.M. Rollin, illustrated by JAKe
Chronicle Children’s Books

Star Wars enthusiasts will love this sound book- a communication manual – that celebrates the enormously popular, adorably quirky droid character BB-8 that appeared in several of the films.

Included are ten built-in droidspeak audio clips, with translations and conversation tips, and funny illustrated scenarios that will help readers understand and get the best out of their own droid companion in a galaxy far, far away.

Astromech qualities such as playfulness, resourcefulness, determination, trustworthiness and bravery, demonstrated by means of BB-8’s adventures, are recognised herein. Fans will lap up the insider jokes too.

A fun and handy guide indeed, that fans young, and not so young, will delight in.

Step Inside Homes Through History / Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery

Step Inside Homes Through History
Goldie Hawk and Sarah Gibb
Nosy Crow

Most readers of this book will recognise many of the features of the contemporary house illustrated herein, and those who are as old as this reviewer will recognise some of the rather garish décor shown in the sixties home. How many though, unless they are members of the National Trust or have a special interest in the topic, will know what living in a Late Middle Ages manor house or a Tudor mansion was like?

Three double spreads each, explore seven periods in time from the mid 13th century through to the present day.
Intricately detailed laser-cut pages show us not only the particular residence outside

and in, but also the fashions, family life and furniture of the period.

You can have fun tracing the evolution of the bathroom from the medieval gardrobes – ‘a bench over a big hole which went outside the house’

to the Georgian chamber pot beneath the bed, the new Victorian indoor flushing toilet through to the present day en-suite bathrooms that many of us have. Also fun is the ‘spot the artefact’ feature where readers are asked to find a named item of furniture or small object in each house.

Full of interesting snippets of information, this well-illustrated book is worth buying for a classroom collection, or if you intend visiting a stately home or historic house, whether or not it belongs to the National Trust, Nosy Crow’s collaborators for this title.

Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery
Jake Williams
Pavilion Books

Following his Really Remarkable Reptiles, illustrator/designer Jake Williams has created another fascinating, stylishly illustrated book, this time about the naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin famous for his epic voyages of adventure on HMS Beagle and his theory of evolution ‘On the Origin of Species’.

The amazing creatures both large and small that Darwin saw during his explorations (some of which we see larger than life illustrated herein) furnished a wealth of detailed notes and drawings, observation data and fossil specimens; and readers can follow in the footsteps of the famous biologist as he travels the world for five years as the Beagle ship’s biologist sailing from England to the Cape Verde islands, from Brazil to the Galapagos and from Tahiti to Australia and finally, back home.

There’s a wealth of information about such things as the ‘cracker’ butterflies of Brazil;

how Darwin unearthed the skull of a giant ground sloth in Argentina and the steamer ducks he observed in the Falklands,

as well as maps showing the Beagle’s progress.

Recommended for all those with enquiring minds, this is a beautifully produced book that highlights the importance that careful observation makes in the furtherance of scientific discovery.

Beetles, Butterflies and other British Minibeasts / Look and Say: What You See at the Seaside / Queen Victoria

Beetles, Butterflies and other British Minibeasts
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow & the National Trust

In all my time teaching under 7s, I’ve probably never come across a child, however lively or challenging who, when outside (or sometimes in) failed to become engrossed in watching such minibeasts as woodlice, ants, ladybird larva or caterpillars.

This beautifully illustrated Nature Sticker book takes users to several locations where minibeasts are likely to abound: the vegetable patch – several, but not all of the minibeasts therein are likely to be pests.

Anything but pests are bees, hugely important garden visitors that have a vital role in pollination, as do some butterflies like the beauties shown herein.

The shed is a likely place to find spiders and their webs in abundance as well as daddy-long-legs and perhaps other less desirable kinds of flies.
You’ll probably hear grasshoppers and crickets before you see them as they’re often camouflaged in the long grass they like to frequent.
Tree trunks like this one are good spots for discovering and observing beetles.

What better time that now to get outside, look for small creatures and then come back and enjoy hours of learning and fun with this beautifully illustrated book?

Look and Say: What You See at the Seaside
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow & the National Trust

Whether you’re building sandcastles at the water’s edge, swimming in the sea, looking at the boats in the harbour, walking on the cliffs, rock-pooling, fishing, exploring the estuary, strolling on the sand-dunes, or perhaps diving down beneath the waves, there’s always plenty of interesting things to see. when you visit the seaside.

This is what Sebastien Braun shows in his engaging scenes of the various locations, each of which has an introductory sentence and another pointing out a particular feature of note. At the bottom of each spread is a row of named objects to find in the large illustration and say together, if sharing the book as intended with an adult (or older child).

A fun way to develop vocabulary and observational skills with little ones.

Queen Victoria
Illustrated by Nina Cosford
Puffin / V&A

Readers with an interest in the past will enjoy this mini-hardback book that looks at the life of Victoria and her legacy.
It tells how, when the young Victoria became queen she was determined to break free from the controlling influences of her mother and her courtiers and rule Britain on her own, even if she didn’t always get things right. It was against royal protocol for her cousin Albert, with whom she fell in love, to propose marriage to her; instead she did the honours and was accepted.

As well as information about the Queen, there are spreads about the industrial revolution; the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, the royal couple’s work in support of the arts and science,

their interest in the latest technological developments as well as Albert’s popularising of the Christmas tree and Victoria’s golden and diamond jubilees.

Illustrated with a mix of photographs and finely detailed illustrations by Nina Cosford this is one to add to primary school classroom shelves, or for young readers wanting an introduction to a fascinating period of great change.