Stories on My Street / Eric and the Green-Eyed God

It’s great to see the return of some old favourites given new looks.

Stories on My Street
Shirley Hughes
Walker Books

This brings together four stories featuring the children and their families, who are all residents of Trotter Street. The tales were originally published with Shirley’s coloured illustrations, herein replaced with black and white ones.

In the first, New Wheels for Carlos, friends Billy and Carlos love to race their old bikes down the hill in the park but both of them are outgrowing their old slow machines. With birthdays fast approaching each would truly love a new bike; will it be a ‘Happy Birthday’ for both boys? …

A heart-warming tale of friendship, longings and surprise.

The Patterson family are the focus of The Big Concrete Lorry. It’s a tight fit with four humans and a dog at number 26, their little home. So, after a family conference it’s decided that they should have an extension. The cost won’t be excessive as Dad, (with help from willing neighbours) will build it himself.

All goes to plan until CRRURK! CRRUCK! CRRUCK! the arrival of a lorry bearing the name JIFFY READY-MIX CONCRETE CO on the side and it’s a day early …

Thereafter a massive effort on the part of the community is called for.

This smashing story with its wonderful illustrations put me in mind of the time years back, when my partner and I were installing an Amtico floor that had to be put on top of a self-levelling screed in our kitchen and the antics that ensued to prevent it setting too quickly.

In Angel Mae and the New Baby, Mae’s mother is expecting a baby, something about which Mae has mixed feelings especially as she is to play the role of the Angel ‘Gave-You’ in her class nativity play very soon. But when Mae wakes up on the day of the play, there’s no sign of either her mum or dad; instead Grandma is in the kitchen cooking breakfast.

The tension mounts as the show proceeds with Mae hoping against hope that at least one of her parents will arrive to see her debut performance …

Warmth and humour as only Shirley can do it, abound in this third tale.

The Snow Lady is what Sam and her friend Barney create one chilly day. It bears a close resemblance to their grumpy neighbour, Mrs Dean, Barney decides, and makes a pebble name ‘Mrs Mean’ at her feet.

Mrs Dean is away to spend Christmas with her son, but she arrives back unexpectedly late on Christmas Eve. Conscience-struck, Sam is concerned that come the morning Mrs Dean will see what she and Barney have done and feel hurt.

Of course, like the others, this gently humorous story has a happy ending and is equally deftly illustrated in Shirley’s exquisite style.

Eric and the Green-Eyed God
Barbara Mitchelhill, illustrated by Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Eric’s mum is soon to marry but there’s a snag; she’s marrying his teacher known as ‘the Bodge’. That in itself is pretty awful but even worse is that his globetrotting Auntie Rose has sent a wedding present sparkling with emeralds and it’s said to be imbued with magical properties that might result in more than one new addition to his family.

Eric and his friend Wez don’t know the meaning of the words his aunt has used in relation to the gift but their pain in the neck classmate Annie certainly does and she insists such objects work.

Eric and Wez simply have to locate this present among all the others and stow it away somewhere where it can’t work before Mum has a chance to open it on her big day.

Locating it is relatively easy but hiding it away is another matter especially since Eric and his fellow pupils are engaged in the ‘Loving the Earth’ project the mayor has set up. Moreover Eric has failed to clear up the mess made when he and Wez were opening all the presents and now his mum thinks there’s been a break in and the police are involved.

Things just keeping on getting worse: how can Eric get himself out of this increasingly troublesome situation?

Barbara Mitchelhill’s mix of zany humour, magic and emotions will result in giggles aplenty from young readers of this episode in the series especially since the inimitable Tony Ross has supplied plenty of wacky new illustrations.

Silly Mr Wolf / Wolf in the Snow

From Andersen Press come not one but two wolfish stories from award winning picture book creators this month:

Silly Mr Wolf
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Like most storybook wolves, Mr Wolf is a very tricky character and a master of disguise – at the outset at least.

Said lupine has long outgrown his ‘sheep’s clothing’ and so in more recent times in order to obtain a juicy sheep for his dinner he’d put a bag over his head and changed his name, first to Mr Jones – which worked briefly; then (with a new suit and bigger bag) to Mr Smith. Again this ruse was temporarily successful,

so could it be third time lucky with a change of bag and outfit?

The sheep appear ready to fight their corner except for an old one . He points out that as well as whacking Mr Wolf, they need to deal with his pals. How can they drive away four wolves?

Is it he who’s the silly one? I don’t want to be a story spoiler so remember the title of the book and decide for yourself …

Daftness as only Tony Ross can deliver it, but there’s an important stranger-danger message here too.

Wolf In the Snow
Matthew Cordell
Andersen Press

Almost wordless, this is a wonderfully satisfying story about a little girl whose kindness is repaid one chillsome day.

The book opens with a view of a family warm inside their home.

Then, clad in a red hooded jacket, the little girl leaves the house, bids her dog farewell and sets off into the gently falling snow.
At the same time a pack of wolves is on the move.

This is no Red Riding Hood tale though, for then comes the title page after which we see the same child waving to her schoolmates and setting off homewards in the now, heavily falling snow.

Turn over and the wolves emitting steam from their mouths are heading in the girl’s direction.

The snow falls ever faster as the girl and a wolf cub approach one another to the accompaniment of the beginnings of a soundtrack.

With the pack’s howls resounding across the distant hills, she tenderly lifts the little creature and proceeds to carry it towards the sound with the blizzard swirling all around. Across streams, past antagonistic animals she trudges until at last she reaches its mother.

By now the child is well nigh exhausted but she continues her journey until she can go no further and collapses into the snow.
Then it’s time for the wolves to show their gratitude and they do so by surrounding her in a protective circle and howling.

Their call reaches her family and eventually all ends happily.

How brilliantly Cordell captures the multitude of feelings, both human and animal, in his pen-and-ink and watercolour ilustrations; and what an enormously satisfying circularity there is – both verbal and visual – to this superb tale.

A Dog’s Tale

A Dog’s Tale
Michael Rosen and Tony Ross

Full of worldly wisdom, is this rhyming discourse from an old dog to a concerned pup as the two take a walk together.

Reassuring from the outset, ‘an epic life story that YOU get to write. … Be wide-open hearted … Fill up on hope, throw away fears’ comes the advice.

Life promises plenty of action …

no matter where your journey takes you … and opportunities – ‘you can make a mark! Make yourself heard –‘ although it’s important to be prepared for life’s downsides too – those waiting in the wings to do you down; or you might suffer the loss of a loved one.

However nobody need feel completely alone; there’ll be a friend to help you through times of sadness.

Perhaps a time will come when others will require your help; give and take is the best scenario. What we all need be we young, old or in-between, is a world where everyone is willing to share, a world where life is fair.

So says the sage old canine after which he retires for a well-earned snooze.

If only: we still have an awful long way to go but this book from two pillars of children’s books and reading, writer Michael and artist Tony, is a great reminder of what we should all be striving for. I’m no lover of dogs but I certainly fell for Michael’s canine characters as portrayed by Tony Ross in his superbly expressive scenes.

Share, discuss and act upon the advice herein wherever, whenever possible.

I Want a Bunny!

I Want a Bunny!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

The awesome Tony Ross’s series of stories about a certain young royal goes ever on.

The latest on the list of the Little Princess’s demands is a bunny. This is on account of her recent visit to her ‘awful’ friend Petronella who has a really cute one.

As usual everyone rallies round to see what can be done. The Gardener gives Little Princess a stick insect, nothing surely could be less trouble than Sticky; but the princess manages to lose it almost immediately.

She finds the Admiral’s goldfish boring and that too disappears.

The kitchen cat disappears rather than be pampered by the Princess and that leaves her young highness thoroughly fed up.

Finally the Queen agrees to her wish for a bunny  so long as the Little Princess cares for it properly, and they go and buy ‘Chalky’ from the pet shop.

Initially things go well but then the Little Princess decides to invite Petronella over to see her new acquisition. The outcome is a forgotten royal rabbit

and a new demand from you know who.

Fortunately as always, the King knows just how to deal with matters … well, almost!

Another winner for fans of the Little Princess and with her new tale she’ll likely win a host of new enthusiasts too.


Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press

This series of Jeanne and Tony’s on Internet safety for children goes from strength to strength; #Goldilocks is number three and it’s absolutely brilliant.

Subtitled ‘A Hashtag Cautionary Tale’ it is exactly that with Jeanne delivering her vital message in the jaunty manner of a 21st century Belloc.

Like so many children these days, Goldilocks has a smartphone and is active on social media. Anxious to gain more likes for her posts, the young miss starts posting photos of her family and much more.

After a while though her followers’ enthusiasm wanes and she becomes desperate: something shocking is required to revive interest.

Off she skips to a certain cottage in the woods and takes a selfie as she breaks in;

another #PipingHot and a third breaking a chair #Fun!

And she doesn’t stop at that.

Inevitably it all ends in disaster for Goldilocks who receives a stint of community service at a certain bears’ residence; but worse than that, those photos she so recklessly posted of her thievery and destruction live on for all to see. And that takes us to the final moral words of caution: ‘ … think twice before you send!’

Absolutely hilarious both verbally and visually – the two work so superbly well together – this story is written from an understanding of the attraction for children of social media and is ideal for sharing and discussion at home or in school.

Above all though, it’s a smashing book.


David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books

When a new hatchling penguin going by the unlikely name of Geronimo bursts into the snowy world of the Antarctic he’s fuelled by a determination to become airborne, despite his father’s assertions that penguins can’t fly.

His first attempt sees him plunging headlong into the freezing-cold ocean. Unabashed he relaunches himself, this time using a seal’s enormous belly as a springboard, only to nose dive into deep snow.

But Geronimo isn’t ready to give in that easily: he has the ingenious notion of placing his bottom over the blowhole of a whale. This rather reckless rear end rest results in his needing beak-to-beak resuscitation from his pa.

Thoughts of flight now fill not only his every waking moment but also his dreams – every single night it’s the same …

Eventually, the Emperor emperor penguin instructs his Dad to tell Geronimo once and for all he’s to stop trying. But surely that can’t be the end of his aeronautic antics?

Perhaps not, with the collective brains of the colony working overtime …
After all there is more that one way of looking at things now isn’t there? It’s certainly so if you happen to be a yogi, or at least, like the adult penguins in the story, able to stand on your head.

Totally crazy but then this is David Walliams with his off the wall humour. Tony Ross adds his own brilliant touches of zaniness with a sequence of hilarious spreads of Geronimo’s efforts and the optical delusion that finally makes his dream come true.

Hold fast to your dreams – what a great message for young children.

An Anty-War Story

An Anty-War Story
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Of all the residents of Antworld, there’s only one little ant with a name. Meet the new born Douglas. Douglas watches the other ants carrying food and longs to fit in and be part of that ‘beautiful line’. But that isn’t the role the Chief Ant has in mind for him; Douglas’s destiny lies elsewhere. He too will march in line but instead of food, he will carry a rifle. Douglas is to be a uniform wearing soldier charged with defending Antworld and making it a safer place for all the little ants.

Douglas is proud of his uniform and his assigned role, as well as the banner-bearing band that marches behind the ‘rifle carrying ants’. But then war does come.

It comes in human form: shells WHIZZ and with a BANG Antworld is completely obliterated.

Ross shows this in a devastating shift from the colourful pageantry as the explosion spread is followed by a gloomy grey view of advancing WW1 soldiers with mustard gas swirling across the landscape and below a smudge of red in one corner, the words “The end.’

Then follows an equally sombre monument to the fallen.

That only serves to bring home the awful reality of how war can change lives in a single instant – one flash and it’s all over for some, or many.

Sobering and intensely powerful, a reading of this allegorical tale is certain to bring on discussion about war wherever it’s shared.

I Want My Dad! / With My Daddy / I Love You Dino-Daddy

I Want My Dad!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Tony Ross’s latest slice of humour, Little Princess style, has the heroine considering her dad the King, making comparisons with other dads and finding him wanting in many respects. He’s much shorter that they are, is useless at baking, gets wheezy in the presence of any animal large or small, is totally inept in the water

and unlike the Gardener who takes his offspring on forest walks, gets lost in his own castle.

I wish my dad was as much fun as other dads!” she cries to the Maid. … He’s useless.

Her response is to teach the young complainer. First it’s pony riding, then baking, followed by swimming and walking in the woods, none of which are a resounding success. Our Little Princess is left feeling cold, decidedly damp, with hurting teeth and head, and exceedingly hungry.

In short, she feels absolutely useless.

As she heads for home who should happen along but his royal highness out walking and when he hears about her failures, just like all dads, he knows just what to say to put everything right.

With My Daddy
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

In this sturdily built book, a little girl talks about how she feels when she’s with her dad.
He arouses the whole gamut of emotions: a hug makes her feel like ‘a little bird in a warm, comfy nest, … safe.’

He can also make her feel unafraid, ‘brave’ in fact, ‘daring’, ‘confident’ because he inspires self-belief,

being ‘adventurous’ particularly when it comes to swimming, ‘playful’ on the most ordinary of days, ‘calm’, and ‘excited’ especially when he plays at being a monster. Sometimes though he invokes anger but it’s a storm that quickly passes thanks to Dad’s gentle calming hands on the narrator’s back.
Interestingly we never see the complete dad, or even indeed his face. Rather it’s only huge hands, or feet and legs on the final page, that are ever visible. In this way, Christine Roussey emphasises the huge amount of love he bestows upon the small narrator and the scope of his influencing power upon her feelings and emotions.

I Love You Dino-Daddy
Mark Sperring and Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

According to his offspring, Dino-Dad is a pretty cool guy with all manner of useful attributes. He’s full of fun on trips to the park, , ace at building with blocks, great at playing monsters, pretend wrestling, giving pony rides and doing magic tricks (especially where cake is concerned) ; he’s even great to play with – albeit unknowingly – while taking a nap.

As described in Mark Sperring’s jolly rhyming text and portrayed, with his dapper blue shoes and striped scarf, in Sam Lloyd’s exuberant illustrations, this Dad is a doted-on dino. who is sure to charm your little ones; and this is a lovely fun-filled, love-filled book for dino-littles to give to a dad on his special day be that Father’s Day, a birthday or for that matter, any other day they want to bring a Daddy smile.

Not Just a Book / A Couch for Llama

Not Just a Book
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press

A book is for reading, yes certainly, but according to Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross’s latest offering, books can sometimes be so much more.
On occasion they might serve as hats, or make a tent for a cat, prevent a table from wobbling. A book makes a good tunnel for your toy train, can become an extra block for building with,

even perhaps a flower press.
This multi-purpose object is the perfect fly-swatter …

or protector of your drink from marauding wasps.

More important though than any of these additional uses, and that’s the real message herein, books have the power to affect how you feel;

to help you go to sleep, to educate; the best are never forgotten and best of all, a book is something to read and love …

Silly? Yes, Fun? Yes.

Jeanne Willis’s brief rhyming text and Tony Ross’s wonderful illustrations – look out for the mischievous cat on every page – make for an enjoyable and playful message about the importance of books.

A Couch for Llama
Leah Gilbert

The Lago family absolutely love their old couch: it’s been the site of many good together times but now a new one is much needed. Off they go in the car to the furniture shop where they find the perfect replacement.

On the way home however, something happens that results in their new item of furniture ending up in Llama’s field. Llama is by nature a curious creature and so he starts to investigate this new arrival. He sniffs it, greets it and even tries sharing his lunch with it but none of these moves elicits any response. Llama tries lunching on the couch instead but it tastes awful and it’s too heavy to move.
The couch is useless, is his conclusion so Llama decides to ignore the object.
This unsurprisingly becomes exceedingly boring and so the exasperated animal leaps onto it and suddenly comes understanding …

By this time the owners of his new lounger have returned to claim their lost item but Llama refuses to budge. There’s only one option that will work for one and all: now what might that be? …
In her debut picture book Leah Gilbert mixes the realistic and the ridiculous with just the right degree of each for the story to work, but the real strength is in her visuals: in particular the scenes of Llama and his couch encounters are hilarious.

Boogie Bear

Boogie Bear
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books

The tour-de-force that is Walliams and Ross has created yet another winning picture book, this time starring a resident of the North Pole, a female polar bear.

The creature over-indulges, drops off to sleep and drifts far from home. So far in fact that the sun is sufficiently warm to melt away the ice-berg upon which she’s been precariously balanced and she’s forced to swim for shore, employing ‘her best bear paddle’.

Once on dry land it seems worse is to come in the form of an advancing stampede of decidedly hostile-looking furry creatures of a brown hue yelling about a ‘boogie monster”.

Further undesirable episodes follow including the hurtling through the air of various objects – missiles …

and bears – until suddenly, the ursine residents make a startling discovery.

From then on things turn distinctly peachy for a certain polar bear;

but if you want to find out exactly how the tale ends then you’ll have to get your paws on a copy of this hilarious book. If you’re an adult who loves giving a full dramatic performance when sharing a book you’ll absolutely love this one; if you’re a child who enjoys a rippingly good yarn that will make you wriggle with laughter and that’s brilliantly illustrated, then this is for you.

Uproariously funny as it may be, the story has much to say about embracing difference, acceptance, welcoming, friendship, displacement and more. It’s as much needed now as ever.

I’ve signed the charter  

Singing in the Rain / I Want Snow!

Singing in the Rain
illustrated by Tim Hopgood
Oxford University Press

A few years back I was in Udaipur, Rajasthan when the first monsoon rains of the season started to fall. Almost instantly, everyone around, the children certainly, all dashed outside and began celebrating – jumping for joy and playing in the rapidly forming, large puddles that soon became rushing torrents in the streets.
Tim Hopgood’s exuberant illustrations that accompany the words based on Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown’s song too, make rain a joyful experience.

Most adults in the UK certainly, especially teachers, find rainy days a nuisance at best, as they usually mean wet playtimes. Early years teachers though, like the children herein, embrace it as an opportunity to experience puddle jumping and splashing, and have a thoroughly good time – so long as everyone is suitably clad in waterproofs and wellies, that is.
Included with this uplifting book is a CD with the song performed by Doris Day followed by the story with page-turn signals.
So, as the book’s illustrator urges, no matter where you are, be it city or tropical rainforest,

Next time it rains, step outside, feel the rain on your face and give the clouds up above your biggest smile!

Just like the children here in Tim Hopgood’s bright alluring scenes.

I Want Snow!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

The Little Princess is well known for making demands.
In this, her latest story, prompted by a postcard from her mum in the South Pole, and in spite of it being summer, it’s snow she wants.
But what the Little Princess wants, she usually gets and so it is here – eventually.
First though she has everyone in the palace doing their best, building snowmen out of stones and sand and indulging her with mudball fights.

Is the little madam satisfied? Of course not; even the cook’s proffered glass snow globe fails to please and off she stomps to bed. Endless bed – or almost …

until finally she has something to lift her spirits.
I wonder what she thinks about the long-awaited, chilly precipitation.
The Little Princess does look slightly less little here but her charm shows no signs of wearing thin, and I’m sure she’s especially pleased to have a sparkly cover to her latest book.

Our Kid

Our Kid
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
What an intolerant teacher ‘Our Kid’ has, responding to his lateness by sending him to the ‘Naughty Corner.’ (I have strong feelings about naughty corners/steps but won’t pursue the topic here). The Kid has an enormously fertile imagination and so, following his dad’s “Go straightly to school, Our Kid. Don’t be late again.” he tells how he took the shortcut along the beach, which led to hoof dunkling,

an encounter with a dinosaur pirate-chasing submarine driven by fish …

which resulted in the loss of his homework-containing schoolbag and trousers; followed by a rendezvous with an enormously helpful elephant who eventually dropped him at the school before he ‘kerlumped’ off: hence the kid’s tardy arrival.
However, just as the errant pupil has finished his tale and been admonished for his making up of “total and utter nonsense” the classroom tenor takes a sudden unexpected turn. The school, after a considerable degree of turbulence, is invaded by three creatures asking for “Our Kid” and proffering some objects …

To relate what ensues thereafter would spoil this fantastic story so let’s just say, the teacher has something of a change of heart, which leaves our protagonist bounding home joyfully after a thoroughly uneventful day at school. Did I say at the start Our Kid has an enormously fertile imagination? Actually, I may have been just a teensy bit wrong on that score.
This cracking tale put me in mind somewhat, of Cali and Chaud’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School but its manner of telling is completely different. Ross’s off-beat use of language is both inspired and playful: I absolutely loved ‘shoffled’ ‘bumpeeded’ ‘felumpingly’, ‘boomdered’ and ‘glumbtious’ to mention just some of the wonderful words he sprinkles throughout the kid’s saga. Equally brilliant are each and every one of his watercolours. The expression of utter joie-de-vivre the narrator shows as he dunkles his hooves in the seawater; the way he clambers up the elephant’s trunk to reach the howdah on its back;

and the nonchalance of the teacher as he hands back Our Kid’s unread homework are beyond brilliant; which in fact, applies to the whole book.

I’ve signed the charter  

The New Libearian / Goldilocks and The Three Bears


The New Libearian
Alison Donald and Alex Willmore
Maverick Arts Publishing
It’s storytime at the library; all the children are ready but somebody is missing: Miss Merryweather isn’t there. The children search – they follow the footprints or rather, the tracks …


and come upon some rather unsettling clues that take them to …


Several of the children are wary but when the new ursine librarian agrees to read them a story and a scary one at that, they are well and truly won over …
But then who should appear on the scene but Miss Merryweather herself and her story is an old favourite, Goldilocks and the Three Bears; the only trouble is there seems to be a character missing.


Now where might Baby Bear have got to?
Well of course, we all know the answer to that one, but it’s not quite the end of the story … I won’t spoil that though. Get yourself a copy of this Three Bears-inspired tale of mischief and the magic of story sharing, that is also a celebration of our wonderful libraries and those who work therein.
Alex Willmore’s illustrations are enchanting and that growling, stomping, roaring bear is guaranteed to be a winner with both listeners and readers aloud alike.

On the subject of Goldilocks and the Three Bears it’s great to see Andersen Press have brought out a 40th anniversary celebratory edition of this wonderful rendition by master illustrator, Tony Ross:


Just look at his unforgettable portrayal of Goldilocks sampling porridge from ‘the largest bowl’ …


If this super book isn’t in your collection, get it now.


Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool


Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool is assuredly a head-turner but not a particularly pleasant character – far from it in fact. She feels duty bound to issue fault- correcting instructions to those she calls her friends, thus …


and even resorts on occasion to actual ‘enhancement’ procedures …


It isn’t only fellow pupils who come in for her improvement instructions though: ‘No one was safe from Lucinda’s advice./ “Grandpa!” she said. “Your moustache isn’t nice./ Sit down and don’t fidget, I’ll give it a trim./ Grandma, you’re next when I’ve finished with him.” Her teacher too gets the treatment …


All is perfectly peachy for Miss LBMMcC until she happens upon a Monster in the woods one day – a hideous beast if ever there was one. Do you think the young miss stood terrified before this creature?


No way! Out come the beautifying instruments (she went nowhere without those of course)


and very soon the monster’s hair has been washed, trimmed and blown dry and he’s had a thorough make over to boot. Let the beautiful friendship now commence … errrm, not quite. Seems that makeover was only skin deep …
Willis and Ross have together concocted a cracking cautionary tale of the truly hilarious kind. Jeanne Willis’ rhyming narrative is a gift to the reader aloud (though I suggest you have a dress rehearsal first) and I guarantee you’ll have your audience in fits, not only over the words: every single one of Ross’s illustrations is an absolute beaut.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2


Bear With Me

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The Bear Who Went Boo!
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books
I put this book down in a classroom belonging to nine year olds and it was eagerly seized on by one girl who’d been attracted by the author’s name splashed across the cover. She sat silently reading it to herself, then excitedly called some of her peers and saying ‘Listen to this, guys.’ began reading it aloud to them. ‘Can you read it?’ they asked and so I was given the book and proceeded. The group loved it: ‘It’s hilarious,’ one said and ‘he (little cub) really asked for it.’

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That about sums things up.
Essentially, this performance stars a cheeky little polar bear residing at the top of the world who enjoys nothing better than creeping up on his poor unsuspecting fellow creatures and letting out an enormous “Boo!” He pays no heed to his mama’s “How would you like it if someone went boo to you?” and when a TV crew arrives to make a film of the animals, he continues with his boos. He boos the wrinkly walrus as he’s topping up his tan for the camera, the puffins as they preen their feathers, with disastrous results for the birds and the killer whales working on their synchronised swimming routine.

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Then along comes an altogether different creature – one unknown to little cub – and he’s about to film a snowy owl. Of course, the booing bear lets loose with one final …

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Needless to say its recipient is far from pleased and he’s not fooled by little cub’s claim to be a member of the penguin species either, so it’s a case of TV show filming cancelled.
Off flies the helicopter taking with it the film crew – next destination the Antarctica – leaving behind some very angry would-be famous TV stars and a somewhat downcast little cub.
But even after being treated to a dose of his own medicine and ending up looking like this …

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our irrepressible young chief protagonist just has to have the very last word and you’ll know what that is …
What a tour de force this Walliams/Ross team is: indeed just as irrepressible as little cub himself.


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How to Hug with Hugless Douglas
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
The famous hugging bear is back with lessons in – you’ve guessed it – hugging and it’s altogether generous hearted of him, as he and his pals are engaging in a hugging contest. Still that’s Douglas for you and as he says, “Some of the nicest hugs are with your friends.” But, you can hug pretty much anything, one way …

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or another.
There are prizes for all manner of hugs and huggers; but will Douglas win anything? What do you think? …
An exuberantly warm-hearted board book for apprentice huggers of all shapes and sizes.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

Monster Encounters

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The Bath Monster
Colin Boyd and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Have a bath or the Bath Monster will come and get you –a monster that lurks beneath the bath slurping up the mucky water – his second favourite food – through a special bendy straw: surely that’s nonsense isn’t it? It’s certainly what Jackson’s mother tells him to get him into the tub every night.
Until one day Jackson decides he’s outgrown his belief in said Monster and he’s covered from top to toe in thick mud. “Go and have a bath now or the Bath Monster will come and get you” warns his mother. But, Jackson is having none of it.

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So what will that Bath Monster have to satisfy his hunger instead? His number one favourite food, of course and seemingly Jackson is about to find out what that is …
Tony Ross’s Bath Monster is a magnificently mucky being and as readers ultimately discover, a creature after Jackson’s own heart. Every one of the illustrations for Colin Boyd’s unlikely tale brims over with delicious humour and I suspect adult readers aloud are going to get as much enjoyment from this one as the young children they share it with. The sight of that small (temporarily clean) boy being dangled unceremoniously above the bath on the first page sets the tone for the whole story

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and the picture of Jackson sitting in the tub in his protective gear is superb.

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Assuredly another Tony Ross triumph and a promising debut story for Colin Boyd.
Before we read the story I asked my audience to imagine a bath monster of their own; here are some of their ideas:

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There’s a Monster in my Fridge
Caryl Hart and Deborah Allwright
Simon & Schuster
‘What’s that hiding behind the door? It’s feet have squelched across the floor …’
so begins this split-page mock-scary visit to a monster-filled house on a hill.
Those who dare defy the KEEP OUT sign will encounter among others, the jelly-eating monster of the title, a glittery witch, a startled vampire …

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twin skeletons in the bathtub and an itchy werewolf …

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With such visual jokes as dancing toothpaste tubes, hairbrushes …

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and alarm clocks, and a surprise finale, this one is definitely a whole lot more fun than fright but worth a read around Hallowe’en nonetheless.
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Love Monster & the Scary Something
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unable to sleep one dark shadowy night, Little Monster lets his imagination run riot when he hears a rustling sound in the garden,

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a sound that seems to belong to something that’s found its way inside his very own house and is pitter-pat …. pittery patting around on its terrible hairy feet with terrible twisterly toenails and scuffling and bumping its way up the stairs.

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And it surely has enormous teeth for crunching …
Suddenly Love Monster decides there’s only one thing to do: be brave and confront the hungry creature, so it’s on with the torch and … What could that be looming in the doorway?

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Turns out it’s just another insomniac seeking someone to share the lonely darkness with – and a very tiny one too.
A lovely funny story about facing your worst fears, especially those relating to the dark with just the right degree of scariness for a bedtime read and great fun for Halloween sharing.

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Exciting  Children’s Books Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October


The Queen’s Orang-Utan – one for Comic Relief

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The Queen’s Orang-Utan
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books
This is a real laugh out loud book and in buying it readers will be contributing to Comic Relief, for both the author and publisher will donate all their profits to the charity.
Herein a supremely bored monarch makes what everyone else deems an outrageous birthday present request – or should that be, demand: ‘ “For one’s birthday one would very much like … announced the Queen … “One’s own orang-utan!” ‘. And of course, what her majesty demands her majesty receives – with riotous consequences: consequences that not only relieve HRH of the tedium of entertaining even the most boring of guests to Buck. Palace

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but also enable her to escape her monotonous existence forever.

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Wonderfully anarchic – wickedly expressed both verbally and visually.

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Over Indulgence with The Little Princess & Dave

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Dolci and Ellena enjoying The Little Princess’s antics

I Feel Sick!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Most adults and many children will be familiar with the stunt the Little Princess pulls in her latest story and it’s one wherein she really gets her comeuppance.
Despite feeling as fit as a fiddle, the little madam feigns sickness when asked to do something she doesn’t want to. The thought of school seems to bring on the worst attacks although the Queen takes some convincing and the doctor certainly isn’t fooled.

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Having played the sickness card on several occasions, the Little Princess is in the throes of a very bad attack of nausea when through the door comes a party invitation. An instant cure of course. Off she goes to Molly’s party where she over indulges in party food, then after games and a lot of dancing …
Serves you right, Little Princess.
As always the expressions – both child and adult – are spot on and there’s a guaranteed laugh or rather two, at every turn of the page.
A certain winner.

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Dave’s Breakfast Blast Off!
Sue Hendra and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Herein we have a feline character who, rather than being a doer, is done to.
When an empty breakfast bowl confronts marmalade tom Dave, notorious for his large appetite and erupting rear, something has to be done. It’s fortunate then that Bug just happens along and suggests, ‘Let’s go out for breakfast!
With assistance from Squirrel, Hedgehog, Mouse and Bird, Dave is finally over the fence and into the property next door. There he finds all manner of breakfasts intended for Budgie, Hamster, Rabbit

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and many more, all of which Dave samples. But the combination of fish food, seeds, carrots, flies, leaves and smelly socks has a rather disturbing effect on Dave’s tum. So, when confronted by an angry canine whose breakfast is latterly weighing rather heavy in said stomach, Dave can do nothing to stop the rear-end eruption: an eruption that blasts him into the air

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and back to his own territory just in the nick of time for his lunch.
This, the second story to feature Dave has a new illustrator in Lee Wildish who brings a fresh vibrancy with a variety of perspectives and provides hilarious scenes with lots of deliciously witty details.
For those who love toilet humour – and that’s most young children – this one will be a resounding success.
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Don’t forget February 14th isibgdposterlarge

Pet Problems – Sparky & Rex

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Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans
Orion Children’s Books
What the endearing girl narrator of this wonderfully quirky book wants more than anything in the world is a pet. Her mother finally consents but her stipulation “as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” presents quite a challenge for our determined narrator. She turns to the school librarian for assistance and is given the S volume of the Animal Encyclopedia

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wherein she discovers the perfect minimal maintenance thing – a SLOTH.
The girl duly mail-orders one and when it arrives she names him Sparky, taking him straight outside to his very own tree. Observations of the pet begin but for two days he just sleeps; time for some games thinks the little girl but statues is the only one that works for the pet and her friend Mary Potts is far from impressed. A ‘Sloth Extravaganza’ is advertised,

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and a training regime is implemented but sleepy Sparky just doesn’t respond to commands to learn tricks and there’s no way he’ll wow his audience at the performance. Playing Dead isn’t exactly a showstopper after all.
Despite everything though, Sparky and the little girl remain close: she accepts his slothfulness and loves him for it.
‘ “You’re it, Sparky,” I said. And for a long, long time he was.’

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Beautifully told with an understated humour that is perfectly mirrored in Chris Appelhans’ watercolour illustrations. Executed in shades of brown and teal with the occasional splash of red, pink, green or yellow, every one is a delight.
This is one of those slow burning treasures that one returns to over and over with increasing pleasure at each reading. That sloth is SO adorable. Perfect for sharing or individual readers.


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The Pet Person
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press pbk
Almost twenty years after its first publication, we have the opportunity once more to join Rex the dog in this hilarious tale wherein the human/pet relationship is turned on its head.
Dog, Rex really wants a pet person for his birthday but his parents are against such a furniture spoiling, greedy, smelly addition to the household and his other canine relations are equally unenthusiastic. What’s a poor human-loving canine to do?
Off he goes to sulk in the park and there Rex discovers Ginger: the perfect answer to his pet-longing perhaps?

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Or perhaps not …

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At the end of the day, a disillusioned, rather wiser Rex returns home to discover his birthday present waiting for him and it’s certainly not “a tennis ball.”

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Brilliant: Great dialogue (the interplay between words and pictures is spot on), superb characterization

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and wonderfully imagined scenarios to tickle the fancy of children and adults alike.

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I’d forgotten just how good this book is.

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Fussy Animals – Rita’s Rhino and Alfie’s Yak

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Rita’s Rhino
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Young Rita decides to take things into her own hands when the pets she is offered by relations prove a big let down. Off she goes to the zoo and there offers a home to a rhinoceros no less. Having suitably disguised said animal, the pair depart

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for Rita’s residence. However it’s pretty tricky hiding a large animal in a small flat especially an upstairs one and the creature proves to be a very fussy eater – no toast, only very expensive African grass will do for him.
It’s not just his sheer size or his diet that present problems for Rita; his piles of poo are pretty tricky to hide too.

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Neither side is satisfied seemingly – lifts are not the rhino’s thing and he misses his comfy bed.
And then, Rita takes her pet to school, securing him belly up by the horn in the playground and informing the teacher that he’s a bouncy castle not a rhinoceros.
Imagine the children’s reaction; out they dash for a spot of bouncing

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and that is the beginning of the end. Off back to the zoo goes the rhino leaving a sad Rita who, from then on, has to be content with annual seaside visits with her erstwhile house pet.

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The perfect combination of understated text and brilliantly comic, droll illustrations work in absolute harmony in Ross’s wry take on pet ownership.
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While on the subject of picky animals there’s another one in this story:

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YUCK! Said the Yack
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
The young host in this amusing book also offers his visitor toast (with jam not marmalade though) and receives an unequivocal YUCK! Poor long-suffering Alfie gets the same answer in response to his offers of freshly picked apples,

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eggs, peas, cheese and even strawberry jelly and chocolate ice-cream. So he tries his hand at baking a delicious-looking cake but this meets with an even stronger reaction.

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Poor Alfie is beside himself “I GIVE UP!” he yells and then his visitor explains… “yaks like grass!” and offers Alfie a taste of this yummy fare. No prizes for guessing what Alfie replies …
Young audiences relish the opportunity to shout YUCK at almost every turn of the page of this short, enjoyable story and be amused by Emma Levey’s hilarious, wonderfully expressive portrayal of the fussy eater and his despairing host.
With its easy to read, rhyming text printed in large type, this is a book learner readers can enjoy for themselves after an initial read aloud from an adult.
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Two Parties, Two Birthdays


The Dinosaurs are Having a Party!
Gareth P. Jones and Garry Parsons
Andersen Press
It’s party time at the dinosaurs’ residence and someone has a special guest invitation.


On his arrival our young narrator finds the party in full swing with games galore and a scrumptious spread on the table. Outside is a barbeque, but where is the meat?


And the large bouncy castle is lots of fun – at least till stegosaurus comes along.
Oh, who is taking SO long in the loo?


O-OH! Time to grab a party bag and leave the fun behind it seems …


But the host doesn’t want to lose sight of that special fea.. – oops I mean guest, just yet; indeed he’s hot on the (w)heels of that escapee vehicle most of the way … home. Phew! Lucky escape. Just what is in your party bag then, little boy?
A madcap rhyming story where young audiences will delight in spotting the visual warning signs from the time the narrator leaves home until his hasty departure from the party. They will also relish the twist – or rather snap – at the end of the tale.


There’s more partying in:


We’re Going to a Party!
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press pbk
We’re going to a party,
disguised in fancy dress.
But which of us is What or Who?
It’s up to you to guess!

Each of the animals has donned a disguise and asks readers to decide who is really the banana, pirate, princess, tiger
and so on. Who is that in a ‘rubbish’ monster costume they wonder. Somebody none to happy about to give them a surprise …
Rhyming fun, flaps, a pop-out finale and delicious Ross illustrations: what’s not to like?


I Feel Five!
Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Walker Books
How does it feel to be five?’ or six or whatever is a question often asked of children. It always seems a bit daft to me – why would anyone suddenly feel different overnight just because of a birthday. This is certainly something young Fritz ponders as he wakes up on his fifth birthday leaping joyfully out of bed


and rushing to the mirror only to be confronted by a reflection that looks exactly like the day before’s; and he still can’t tie the laces on his new shoes. Maybe school will help him to feel five he decides. But, when his teacher asks him that inevitable question and his friends sing his birthday song, Fritz still feels just the same.
It’s a rather disillusioned Fritz –still unable to whistle, snap his fingers or do the monkey bars two at a time and still needing just one hand to count his years – who suddenly hears a voice as he sits sadly under an apple tree on his way home from school.


The voice belongs to a little girl and she’s asking him if he can reach the apples.
One flying leap later… two rosy apples, two bite into same and could it just be one very slight wiggle from one of Fritz’s teeth; now there’s a feeling that is just a little different.


And, he has made a new friend; things are definitely looking up.
Full of charm and gentle humour, this is a good story to have to hand in an infant classroom when children turn four, five or six.
Soft watercolours portray so clearly the ups and down of Fritz’s birthday; I love his light-surrounded leap out of bed and the contrasting, all pervading grey gloom as he sits under that apple tree, oh and those two pairs of shoe-clad feet on opposite sides of a spread –


so beautifully expressive.


The Dinosaur That Pooped the Past!
Tom Flethcher & Dougie Poynter illustrated by Garry Parsons
Red Fox pbk
The pooping dinosaur is back once again. Danny’s Gran is celebrating her one thousand and eighth birthday and she’s served up masses of disgusting green, wind-creating stuff. Guess who gobbles Dan’s share before Gran notices so that the pair can go out and play. Once outside they head for a creaky old swing, one that turns out to be super powered. Dizzily they loop back through time


before finally crash landing in the Jurassic era. There they meet a trio of baby dinos, Dino Dudes A, B and C. who like nothing better than clambering on top of each other. As Danny’s dinosaur sits back to watch their games, he feels a rumble in his tum, a rumble that makes the ground crumble , a crumble that signifies VOLCANO SEASON! No time to lose; the swing must be repaired; but that alone is not strong enough to carry extra passengers out of danger. There is only one thing to do …


Three cheers for the power of broccoli and another three for the trio of new dino pals. They all arrive just in time a hefty chunk of Gran’s broccoli birthday cake.


Scatological, or rather poopological, humour courtesy of that huge-bellied dinosaur delivered in rip-roaring rhyme and suitably exuberant illustrations; just the thing to send young children into fits of giggles, not to mention many of the adults who share it with them.

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Clicking and Snipping with Chicken and Kittie



Chicken Clicking
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
If ever there was a picture book warning about the dangers of misusing the internet and on-line chat rooms in particular, then this is the one.
One night Little Chick ventures into the sleeping farmer’s house, accesses his computer and ‘CLICK!’ makes some unlikely purchases. The following night she returns spending more recklessly this time.


The farmer blames his wife; she blames his software. Chick’s mouse mayhem continues with scooters for sheep,


a car for the cows, a Spanish holiday for the bull and more; soon the farm is empty of animals. Alone now, she decides to find a friend online. With selfie taken and duly posted


and personal details added, our little chick finds herself a feathery chat room friend.
A face-to-face meeting is arranged….
Wait, little chick; don’t you know the dangers of chat rooms? Should you be heading off to the Wily Wood all alone?


The final page says it all.
This comical modern fable is told in cleverly contrived, CLICK!- infested, rhyme,
She put her photograph online
She gave her name and age.
CLICK! Another chick appeared
Upon the friendship page.

that builds so brilliantly to the dramatic finale, which readers, although not the gullible chick, anticipate with mounting alarm as the latter continues to click away.
The felicitous Willis/Ross partnership has worked its magic again. Tony Ross’s scenes of the chick and her click-happy purchases are slightly more subdued than some of his other work: his glowing washes with soft pastel/crayon lines are as seductive as the mouse mania that eventually lures Chick to her fateful meeting.
A must-have book for all.
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The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White
Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard
Picture Corgi pbk
Kittie Lacey certainly has her work cut out when she embarks on a mission to disguise Snow White and keep her safe from the clutches of the evil queen. How she does so and at the same time helps love struck Snow White get her man is divulged within the pages of this, the fourth of the Fairytale hairdresser series.


As ever with the Kittie Lacey tales, there is an abundance of fairytale and nursery rhyme characters (including a septet of musical dwarves), plentiful trimmings of the jokey kind and bunches of intertextual links to be made, not to mention that sparkly cover and wedding scene. Oh! And there’s a talking magic mirror too – courtesy of Red Riding Hood.
Great fun for Kittie fans, especially.
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Birthday Bonanza


Boa’s Bad Birthday
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Boa is anticipating his best ever birthday. He’s invited his friends to join him and wonders what gifts they might bring. But Orang-utan’s outsize parcel and the presents from Monkey, Jaguar, Sloth and Ant Eater are all disappointments.


Then his mother announces the arrival of Dung Beetle. Her present will be a pile of – – – – thinks Boa. He’s right of course but inside that stinky dung ball is a small seed and from that seed sprouts something very special that in due course, becomes the perfect place for a Boa to hang around in. The moral of this story is, ‘Never turn your nose up at a stinky present; you never know what delights it might hold in store.’
The sight of Ross’s Boa, sporting his conical party hat and showing a whole range of expressions from sobbing despair to snaky smiles is a real treat as are his depictions of the other animals bearing their self-centred offerings.
The understated humour of Jean Willis’ straight-talking text is the perfect counterpart to Ross’ illlustrations.
The Willis/Ross partnership just goes from strength to strength.
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Dylan engrossed in Captain Beastie’s birthday celebrations

Captain Beastie’s Pirate Party
Lucy Coats and Chris Mould
Nosy Crow pbk
Join the disgusting Captain Beastie as he counts down the five days left till his birthday while engaging in his unpleasant habits. When Saturday dawns the Captain wakes early and gets a big surprise: all his unsavoury clothes have vanished over night. An even bigger surprise is to follow though – a scrub in a large tub courtesy of his long-suffering crew.


Then, after a detangle and a towel wrap, our squeaky clean Captain spies a large parcel wherein awaits a spanking new pirate suit and hat. Time for some celebratory singing, cake and other tasty tidbits. ‘Oops!’ What’s that you’ve spattered all over your new suit Captain?
Avast! me ‘arties; hasten aboard for a splendidly riotous romp with marvellously Mouldy illustrations dotted with suitably disgusting details of Beastie’s detritus and a host of other nasties. Miss the Captain’s party at your peril.
I suspect shouts of “again” will be the order of the day where this one is concerned.
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International Book Giving Day is on Friday 14th


Animals real and imagined

Here is a handful of books that got left over in the run-up to Christmas:

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James was greatly amused by the elephantine invasion

The Slightly Annoying Elephant
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Who is knocking loudly on Sam’s front door? His mum back from the shops? A friend? Not a person at all in fact but an enormous blue pachyderm with a suitcase demanding entrance and claiming that Sam has adopted him. Well, he did sign one of those adopt-an -animal type forms at the zoo. Did he read the small print though? What do you think?
So now all the way from Africa is a very rude elephant wanting a bath, food – lots of it,
a bike, and a place for a nap. With the house in chaos, can things possibly get any worse? Erm … a whole herd worse. Who’s a Silly Boy then?
Yes there are nods to Judith Kerr’s classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea, but this is David Walliams (of Gangsta Granny and Demon Dentist fame) with his over-the -top, wickedly wacky humour in a debut picture book and he has collaborated with master illustrator, Tony Ross who has created the marvellous scenes of madness and mayhem.
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Tuck me in

Daniel absorbed in the story

Tuck Me In!
Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
Walker Books pbk
It’s time for bed.
Who needs to be tucked in?
So begins this cleverly interactive bedtime story wherein we meet a whole host of adorable baby animals
each waiting for a cosy blanket to be placed over them as the stars twinkle above and the crescent moon rises in the night sky.
The straightforward, question and answer repetitive text means that young listeners will quickly start joining in and before long will be reading along and then reading for themselves, this delightful book.
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Little Big Mouth
Jeanne Willis and Lydia Monks
Walker Books pbk.
We all know that name calling is abhorrent so why does Little Green Monster take such delight in calling Blue Monster such things as ‘BAT eared, NIBBLE NAILED short STUMPS!’ or ‘Frog MOUTHED SKINNY RIBBED frilly knickers!’ to name just two of the insulting names he hurls at the newcomer on his first day at Monster Academy? (There are many more combinations readers can concoct by making use of the split pages strategically placed at intervals throughout the book.)
I’m happy to say though that Little Green Monster’s intolerable behaviour is brought to an  abrupt end when he discovers just who has been on the receiving end of his bad-mouthing. Lesson learned? Let’s hope so – well and truly!
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Barbapapa’s Voyage
Annette Tison and Talus Taylor
Orchard Books
Those of us who remember the seventies may well recall the adventures of a large pink blobby shape-shifter who was born in a garden, discovered by and subsequently became friends with, a boy named Francois. Now, thanks to Orchard Books, the adventures of this larger than life character can be enjoyed by a new generation of children. In this particular story, Francois, concerned at Barpapapa’s listlessness and low spirits, takes his pal to the animal doctor for a check-up. The diagnosis is not sickness but loneliness: a Barbamama is needed. So, with friend Cindy, Francois is given permission to accompany Barbapapa on a quest to discover one of these rarities.
Their eventful and sometimes hazardous search takes the three to London, India, New York, even to other planets, but without any success. When finally they return safely to their own garden, what should they find but a large black Barbamama. Then it’s a case of love at first sight and after some weeks, there are seven new additions to the Barba family, one green, one pink, one yellow, one purple, one orange, one blue; there’s even one Barbababy with long black hair (which was extremely lucky!). See the end papers for a family portrait.
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Robert Crowther’s Pop-Up World of Animals
Robert Crowther
Walker Books
Visit five contrasting locations in the latest offering from Crowther, master of paper engineering. At each location we are shown the fauna in their habitat and both habitat and each of the many animals featured per pop-out spread has a brief informative paragraph. We see the Savannah grasslands, dive down to the Ocean depths to see submarine life, then view a Desert region, the frozen seas and land of Polar regions and finally, the equatorial Rainforest. There are numerous tabs, flaps, pop-ups and pop-outs.


Shanu and Shifu, brothers from Rajasthan, investigating how the book works

All in all, a fascinating and thoroughly interactive experience.
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Interactive in a different way – try stopping yourself singing along to this one – is:
What Does the Fox Say?
Ylvis and Svein Nyhus
Simon & Schuster pbk
I love the picture book rendition of the wacky YouTube hit,  by the Norwegian brothers duo that has recently been on the lips of countless children everywhere. I have heard it in several primary schools I have visited in recent weeks.
Yes, the words are pretty ridiculous but I’d buy the book for the illustrations alone  Using a limited colour palatte, Nyhus has created a series of wonderful, slightly surreal scenes that remind me somewhat, of picture books versions of traditional coyote tales


and those crazy choruses are great fun for sound/symbol association activities. (Try putting them onto an interactive white-board. Children could even make up some more of their own.)
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