Harry in a Hurry

Harry in a Hurry
Timothy Knapman and Gemma Merino
Macmillan Children’s Books

Harry the hare is always in a frantic rush to do everything and go everywhere, so much so that he’s apt to cause chaos wherever he goes.

He makes some pretty perilous moves as he speeds around on his scooter until he suddenly finds himself hurtling through the air and into a pond.

Happily Tom Tortoise is there to fish him out, scooter and all and is even good enough to offer to mend Harry’s battered scooter.
Being a tortoise however, means that whatever Tom does, it’s at an extremely slow speed and inevitably it will be so with the task he’s kindly undertaken.

The badly bruised Harry has no choice but to wait and accept his friend’s offer of lunch.

As he does so, something strange starts to happen.

After their lunch Tom suggests a walk and more of Harry’s grumpiness dissipates as he pauses and takes notice of his surroundings.

Tom slips quietly back to finish his task, returning several hours later with the job done, to discover a decidedly more composed Harry, now mindful of his previous bad manners, and appreciative of both his friend’s efforts and the beauty all around.

Timothy’s tale, funny though it may be, has serious messages about kindness, friendship and the importance of taking time to enjoy everything that slowing down offers, not the least being good-natured interactions with others and the beauty of the natural world.

Gemma Merino’s expressive illustrations orchestrate the action brilliantly, bringing out the contrasts between the characters with gentle humour, and providing lots of amusing touches, not the least being the activities of the little mouse and other unmentioned creatures – an extra reward for those who read the book slowly.

What’s Next?

What’s Next?
Timothy Knapman and Jane McGuinness
Walker Books

Time and again Timothy creates wonderful picture book stories. Here’s another winner.

It tells of curious Baby Badger who loves nothing better than to go exploring; and having exhausted the possibilities in his underground home, he asks his father, “What’s Next?”

Daddy Badger’s response is to take his little one up and out to the forest the very next night.

It’s an exciting place with soft moss to roll in, and bluebell bulbs to snuffle for.

Under the starry sky, Baby Badger thanks his dad, inquiring again, “What’s next?” Daddy points out the sinking moon and announces that since day is coming soon, it’s time for bed.

Little Badger understands that next comes daytime and this too stimulates his curiosity, all the more so since his dad has only dim memories of the daylight world.

Unsurprisingly sleep eludes our ever-inquisitive little friend and he follows his nose out of the sett once more.

The daylight forest is certainly a bright, colourful, exciting place;

but it’s also rather lonely and proves an overwhelming experience for Baby Badger, who now wants nothing except his cosy home and his beloved Daddy.

You can easily imagine what comes next – a wonderfully satisfying finale …

Jane McGuinness has created the perfect pictures to illustrate this smashing story. Rich in detail and beautifully textured, her mixed media scenes of the natural world provide delight at every turn of the page.

A smashing book to share with little ones that will likely stimulate interest in the natural world.

Captain Sparklebeard

Captain Sparklebeard
Timothy Knapman and Sam Lloyd
Egmont

When first we meet young Peg she’s something of a Cinderella character residing with her nasty Step-Great-Grand Auntie who bosses the girl around constantly. So hard at work all day is she that her only spare time is at night. That’s when she reads pirate tales and dreams of escape and adventure. Good on you girl!

One day while out walking with her relation’s cat she discovers a pirate ship has arrived in the harbour. On board is Captain Hairy-Ears shouting about having a treasure map and announcing that anyone who ‘dreams of escape and adventure’ can join his crew.

Seemingly though there are exceptions for when Peg asks him politely she’s turned down on account of her nice manners, her smallness of stature and lack of a beard. Moreover, when the lass informs him that she’s read lots of pirate stories, this is met with derision.

Peg however is not giving up that easily. Back home that night she fashions herself a pirate outfit from curtains and a bushy – albeit rather itchy – beard from the floor brush. Then spying her Step Aunt’s jewels she’d been ordered to polish earlier, she has an idea.

The following morning there’s a brand new pirate boat on the ocean.

When challenged as to her identity, Peg informs Captain Hairy-Ears she’s Captain Sparklebeard, the greatest pirate ever and moreover, she will get to the treasure before he does.

Having cast aspersions about her boat Captain Hairy-Ears sails off leaving the lass to peruse her Big Book of Sea Perils. This volume proves worth its weight in gold for it warns her of the dangers lying in wait between her and the treasure island, hazards of which the other pirates know nothing.

Consequently when they finally arrive on the beach they’re jittering wrecks with nothing going for them save the treasure map.

But Peg still has the upper hand for she’s the only literate one among the treasure seekers.

Furthermore she has something else to reveal that will surprise her rivals.

I’d hate to be a story spoiler, especially of one as much fun as this so I won’t reveal what happens thereafter. That’s for you to discover when you lay your hands on this treasure of a book.

With Timothy Knapman’s wonderfully playful telling that’s full of alliteration and other word combinations that demonstrate to children that language is fun, the indomitable female character and Sam Lloyd’s rumbustious scenes of madness and mayhem on the high seas, this book is a winner.

Big Digger Little Digger

Big Digger Little Digger
Timothy Knapman and Daron Parton
Walker Books

Little Digger is the hardest working machine on the building site.
One day he has a mammoth task: an especially big hole needs digging: is Little Digger up to it? He’ll definitely do his upmost, he thinks.

Suddenly along comes a new machine on the block: “Big Digger dig down DEEP,” he says roaring into action. Little Digger is out of a job but he still wants to find something useful to do.
Off he goes around the site, but he can’t dump, mix cement or move heavy things: seemingly he’s only good for getting in the way. Down in the dumps is how he feels.

By this time Big Digger has dug himself into the deepest hole anyone had ever seen.

There’s a snag though, it’s so deep he’s now stuck inside.

Little Digger hears his cry for help. Now it’s down to him to try and rescue the huge machine.
He certainly won’t be able to manage the job single-handed; but perhaps with teamwork the exceedingly heavy Big Digger can be extricated.

Destined, I suspect, to become a huge hit with construction vehicle-loving children, this tale has echoes of Watty Piper’s 1930’s The Little Engine That Could.

With themes of optimism, determination, teamwork and friendship, refrains (printed in bold) to join in with and just the right amount to tension in the telling, Timothy Knapman’s story makes a splendid read aloud.

Listeners will love Daron Parton’s construction vehicles particularly Little Digger and Big Digger as they trundle their way around the building site setting. Make sure your audience sees the end papers too.

Share with a nursery group, then leave the book, along with small world play construction vehicles on a play mat or rug and observe what happens.

Just Like Mummy / Superhero Mum

Just Like Mummy
Lucy Freegard
Pavilion Books

Following on from last year’s Just Like Daddy, Lucy Freegard turns her attention to mums, especially the one featured here.

The young narrator introduces his/her special super-talented mum– full of fun, both creative and practical, ready to offer some words of wisdom at just the right time and provider of cuddles whenever they’re needed. Who wouldn’t want to have a mother like that, and perhaps, to have those qualities when they grow up? Certainly that is what the little leopard here is aiming for. (We don’t know the gender so the story works well for all.)

I suspect any youngster would wish for a mother who spends so much time with her child be that making music, gardening, exploring or whatever, and the cub really does appreciate this togetherness.

It’s important to acknowledge that things don’t always go exactly how we’d like them to; there are sad times, challenging times and inevitably, times when we make mistakes, and so it is here.

Lucy Freegard’s expressive illustrations do a great job of encompassing both the highs and lows of everyday life in a book that is perfect for sharing and discussing with pre-schoolers, and especially, it’s a lovely story for giving to a special mum on Mother’s Day.

Superhero Mum
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow

We had Superhero Dad and now Knapman and Berger even things up with a companion title about mums.

The narrative is an upbeat rhyming celebration of all the things that make them so amazing. Mums, and in particular this little girl narrator’s mum, is on the go from morning till night, whizzing around, often multi-tasking.

Whether it’s making sure we catch the bus to school,

inventing and participating in energetic playground games, administering first aid,

joining in with bath time fun, seeking out a favourite lost toy, or sharing a bedtime story, she always delivers.

In short, she’s an inspiration to every would-be super hero girl (or boy come to that.)

It takes someone special to do all these things with a smile on her face and that’s how Joe Berger’s comic book coloured, action-packed scenes portray her in every one of these seemingly ordinary, everyday activities that could be easily taken for granted.

I’ve signed the charter  

Three Pirate Tales

There appears to be a plethora of pirate picture books at present: these three arrived in a single postal delivery:

The Treasure of Pirate Frank
Mal Peet, Elspeth Graham and Jez Tuya
Nosy Crow
Taking the rhythmic pattern of the nursery rhyme The House that Jack Built, the authors have woven a lovely lilting tale of a young boy set on discovering the hiding place of Pirate Frank’s treasure.
He has a map so show him the way, a trusty ship in which to sail,
To the island with spices and gold and tall mountains all snowy and cold,
On which is a forest with monkeys bold, and a swamp with lilypads topped with frogs.

He must beware of the volcano, spitting out fire,
As he ascends the steps going higher and higher;
then crosses the bridge to the tall palm tree; there to behold – my goodness me!
Who’s this standing atop that chest?

It seems there’s only one thing to do. What would that be if the boy was you?
Jez Tuya’s imaginative perspectives and creature crammed spreads are worth revisiting once the treasure has been found and the tale completed.

Pirates in the Supermarket
Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton
Scholastic Children’s Books
First there were Dinosaurs in the Supermarket; now the place is beset with pirates hell-bent on creating mischief and mayhem among the groceries as unsuspecting shoppers go about the task of filling their trolleys with goodies. They leave plenty of clues but nobody save one small boy is aware of the piles of rubble appearing in the aisles,

the cannon-wielding gang on the rampage, or the piratical accoutrements appearing around the store. Fortunately for all concerned just when it seems things might be getting somewhat out of hand, the aforementioned boy springs into action and before you can say, ‘shiver me timbers’ he has things under control – well and truly so methinks …

Which all goes to show that you need to keep your eyes wide open whenever you embark on a supermarket shop; you never know who might be lurking …
Fun, fast and full of crazy characters, oh and the odd observant one too.; and they’re all colourfully portrayed in Sarah Warburton’s comedic supermarket scenes. What more can a swashbuckling child ask?

Pete’s Magic Pants: Pirate Peril
Paddy Kempshall and Chris Chatterton
Egmont
Another pair of Pete’s snazzy magic pants come out of the suitcase for a wearing – pirate’s stripy ones in this instance – and before you can say ‘Avast’, with a wiggle and a wobble, the lad is off on the high seas aboard the Flying Fowl with Cap’n Ted and his trusty, clucking crew. They’re on the trail of Long John Silverside the most feared buccaneer on the high seas; he who has seized the treasure rightfully belonging, so we’re told to Cap’n Ted and his pals.
Can they escape the jaws of the sharks and the clutches of the soggy-suckered octopus, find their way to where the treasure is stashed and then get past the loutish-looking Long John himself?

Perhaps – with the help of Pete’s brain and the odd touch of brawn thereafter.
Fans of Pete’s previous adventure will welcome this second tale, which is pacey, pant-revealing and full of high drama and I suspect it will capture some new pants followers too.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rockabye Pirate / The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit

Rockabye Pirate
Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Don’t expect loud shouts of ‘Avast me ‘arties’ and similar in this pirate tale; far from it, for Knapman’s text is a lilting, under the covers-luring, lullaby for mummy pirates or daddies for that matter, to share with their pirate offspring at bedtime.
Yes, it’s full of freebooters, the likes of Black Bearded Brewster, Sea Dog McPhail and Freddy the Fright, but they’re not doing the wicked deeds upon the seas, rather they’re performing their ablutions

albeit with some maternal assistance in preparation for the most important part of their daily ritual …

After all, their day has been packed with mischief and mayhem, so now it’s time for some tucked-up-cosily-under-the-duvet dreams. I wonder what those might feature …

Ada Grey’s piratical characters, far from alarming, are portrayed as an endearing bunch of marauders as befits the inhabitants of a gentle bedtime story. Having said ‘bedtime’, this fun picture book could equally be shared with an early years group especially if they’re engaged in a pirate theme.

The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit
Peter Bently and Gerry Parsons
Hodder Children’s Books
The Tooth Fairy returns for another adventure, this time responding to a missive from Her Majesty the Queen informing of the loss of her great grandson’s first tooth. Come nightfall, the little fairy is palace bound but has a few obstacles in her path

before she finds a way in.
Once inside there are still further hazards – corgis, a cloth-wielding maid and some undies …

Finding the little prince’s bedroom is none too easy and the Tooth Fairy finds herself assisting in another ‘toothy’ search before receiving assistance for her troubles.

Will she ever make that all-important coin/tooth exchange and get home for some shut-eye?
Bently’s rhyming text is full of read-aloud fun with some unexpected encounters and, some expected ones: the corgis seem to find their way into every Royals’ picture book as do members of the Queen’s Guard. Garry Parsons’ exuberant illustrations provide gigglesome details at every turn of the page. All in all, a right royal chuckle.

I’ve signed the charter