It’s Only One!

It’s Only One!
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

This is a cautionary tale about what happens when people’s actions are thoughtless.

It’s set in Sunnyville, a fun, friendly and generally lovely place – until kind-hearted Mouse offers Rhino a toffee. Rhino tosses the wrapper away with the titular comment, but so do a host of other town residents, with one item landing hard on Tortoise’s head and leaving Giraffe outraged at the ever-growing rubbish heap.

To cheer himself up Giraffe picks a flower from the park with the same “What” It’s only one’ comment ,which of course it wasn’t.

Now it’s Penguin’s turn to feel anger, so to cheer himself up at the loss of all the flowers he turns to music – only one song of course but …

Can anyone or anything manage to curtail this catastrophic concatenation that’s caused the entire population of Sunnyville to become grumpy?

Perhaps Mouse has the perfect antidote – or at least the makings of one …

We all know only too well the terrible impact dropping rubbish has on the environment, wherever we live. And I’m sure we all want to be good neighbours – this is something that’s become all the more evident since the start of the pandemic – but it’s all too easy to slip into thoughtless actions such as tossing aside that odd car park ticket or receipt.

There are reminders from author, Tracey and illustrator, Tony at the end of their story, of the importance of considering how whatever we do might be impacting on others and their happiness. However, it’s the cast of characters (I love their zany portrayal in Tony’s expressive spreads) from this smashing and timely book that have the last word.

Share, ponder, discuss and most important, act upon this – it’s only one but think of its potential payoff.

Impossible! / I’m Sorry

Here are two recently published picture book from Little Tiger:

Impossible!
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

Dog runs a laundry in a busy city but has a longing to see the ocean.

One day he comes upon Ocean Magic, a new kind of washing powder. The product promises ‘seaside freshness with every wash’ but apparently there’s something else within the box too.
Into the machine goes the powder and out later, along with the clean washing, emerges a crab suffering from a bad attack of nausea.

Dog and Crab discuss the situation over a cuppa

and eventually after declaring several times that driving Crab all the way back home is impossible, Dog lets himself be persuaded to undertake the trip.

Off they go together on a journey that takes several weeks during which they create a special memories map of their trip.

En route they encounter other travellers with seemingly impossible challenges of their own.

Now it’s Dog’s turn to utter the ‘nothing is impossible unless you say so’ maxim and with the assistance of their new friends, Dog and Crab finally reach their destination.

Both are delighted with the ocean paradise but then Dog declares he must return to his city job – or must he?

Follow your dreams and don’t allow obstacles to stand in your way, is the message Tracey’s tale imparts to youngsters. Equally the ‘it’s only impossible if you say so’ message is one we all need to remember especially in challenging times.

Tony Neal’s bright, lively, illustrations inject additional humour into the telling offering fun details to enjoy on every spread.

I’m Sorry!
Barry Timms and Sean Julian

In Walnut Wood live best friends, Scribble (squirrel) and Swoop (owl) and each morning they walk a considerable distance bringing their special things to their regular meeting spot.

Scribble has a special pencil that acts as word assistant in his play script writing, the finished dramas entertaining his friend. Swoop’s special thing is a toolbox that enables her to build anything and everything.

One day they decide to move in together; their place has ‘room for two and a little left over’.

It’s the left over bit – the veranda – that causes a rift, for each has designs on it.

A huge row ensues over the ownership of this: should it be a stage or a workshop?

Scribble decides to try and make amends with the aid of his trusty pencil but can a single word apology fix things or is something else needed?

There’s food for thought and discussion with little ones in this story that demonstrates that sometimes actions speak louder than words. Sean Julian’s beautifully expressive watercolour illustrations are for me the true show-stealers in this book.

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas
Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow

Tracey and Sarah’s version of the classic poem offers an utterly delightful new twist in the character of a little mouse.

Tracey cleverly interweaves occasional lines from Clement Clark Moore in her rhyming narrative that tells of Mouse’s Christmas Eve adventure which all begins when he makes a wish in front of the festive Christmas tree that stands in the hall. For as we hear, there actually is a creature stirring in this particular house. And having done so and made that wish he encounters a lost Santa who is more than grateful to have him act as guide for the remainder of his round.

When the deliveries are done, it’s time for Mouse and Santa to part company but Santa hasn’t forgotten his tiny helper’s wish: he gives Mouse not one but two presents and a map …

Could it be that not just one but two tiny creatures are to have their Christmas wishes fulfilled?

Beautifully told – Tracey’s text is sheer pleasure to read aloud – and Sara’s illustrations with all those gorgeous details – despite the snowy landscapes, positively radiate all that’s warm about Christmas.

Share with little ones at home snuggled up with hot chocolate, as well as in foundation stage settings and expect requests of ‘again’ as soon as you try to close the covers. Tracey and Sarah’s little Mouse is an adorable character.

Sneaky Beak

Sneaky Beak
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

The dangers of succumbing to advertising are hilariously explored in this tale of friends and house-sharers, Bear and Hamster.

First, Bear allows himself to be persuaded by Sneaky Beak that his bed had lost all its bounce when he’s summoned in response to the previous evening’s TV ad.

Not only does Sneaky rock up in his van, but he brings an entourage of bunnies to help clinch a deal for the ‘Snores-Galore Mega bed’.

Poor Hamster is less than pleased when his things are moved out of the bedroom to accommodate Bear’s purchase.

But worse is to come. That Sneaky Beak leaves a leaflet about a very special kind of bathtub. Bear’s determination to resist lasts only until bathtime when he’s on the phone again and guess who he’s calling …

Not a wise move, Bear; and nor was his ‘twirly thing’ investigation …

I’ll leave readers of this romp to decide themselves which is more catastrophic – that, or his next purchase, revealed at breakfast time the following morning, which results in …

That definitely doesn’t have the Hamster mood-lifting effect Bear’s hoping for.

So why oh why is he letting that wily Sneaky Beak beguile him into making yet another purchase?

Disastrous as the Beak’s new sale might have been, it actually provides Bear with some much-needed thinking space

and all ends happily – with some serious recycling and a certain salesbird’s beak somewhat out of joint.

The combination of Tracey’s tongue-in-cheek telling and Tony Neal’s superbly entertaining scenes of the results of falling prey time and again to a determined capitalist’s sales patter, make for a crazy consumerist caper that is bound to bring on fits of laughter on the part of both listeners and readers aloud.

The One-Stop Story Shop

The One-Stop Story Shop
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

How many stories can you pack into one? A fair few it seems when Tracey Corderoy is the author and the tale is The One-Stop Story Shop.

Having discovered that the terrible dragon he intended to slay is temporarily absent taking a well-earned break, a knight finds himself sans story.

Luckily he happens upon a helpful neighbour who takes him to the perfect place named in the title where his problem might be solved, thereby placing the fearless knight on a hunt to find an appropriate story.

The shopkeeper however, has sold out of dragons and instead offers a feisty ferret.

By means of an ingenious plot said ferret then acts as foil for a series of one act dramatic misadventures – a space extravaganza, a cowboy yarn, a rumble-in-the-jungle adventure,

and a depths of the ocean journey. Along the way additional characters tag along, notably a space robot and on every occasion it’s down to feisty ferret to save the situation.

Do the knight and his entourage finally emerge safe and sound from all their adventuring?

Most certainly they do, arriving back in the ‘real’ world of the shop just in time to welcome a certain dragon back from his hols. and ready and willing to do battle.

The knight’s response to his offer demonstrates that he’s graduated from ready-made tales, and with his ferrety sidekick and friend, is more than capable of finding his own adventures.

Enormous fun, this foray into the magical world of storytelling is a great read aloud. Tracey’s text is comically illustrated by Tony Neal. Every one of his spreads is packed with giggle inducing details; and who can resist a poop joke?

An absolute winner and a smashing take on the knight vs dragon tale.

The Christmas Extravaganza Hotel

The Christmas Extravaganza Hotel
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

What bear is anticipating as he snuggles up in his favourite chair before a warm fire is a calm cosy Christmas. Suddenly his peace is shattered by a loud horn sounding outside and at his front door he discovers a very excited frog clutching a hotel brochure. The little creature’s map reading skills leave a lot to be desired but kind-hearted Bear can hardly turn his distressed caller away. Instead he invites him in to spend Christmas at his home and then goes to bed worrying that what he has to offer won’t quite live up to the promises of the hotel brochure Frog’s brought with him.

Early next morning Frog can’t wait for the ‘Christmas Extravaganza” to begin.

Instead of the ‘all you can eat North Pole breakfast’ the pair bake biscuits together

and the promised singing Christmas tree is replaced with a huge outdoor one and yes it does sing – or rather the birds therein do.

Best of all though is the stunning sight of the Northern lights that totally eclipses the strings of flashing lights shown on Frog’s brochure.

The two characters, complete opposites in every way end up spending a wonderful time together and the best Christmas gift of all is really not the contents of the large parcel they discover on Christmas morning, rather it’s the friendship forged between the pair.

A lovely demonstration of the true spirit of Christmas; the inherent warmth of Tracey’s seasonal story is underscored in Tony Neal’s scenes of Bear and Frog’s joyful time together.

The Boy and the Bear / This Book Just Stole My Cat!

The Boy and the Bear
Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow

It’s not much fun playing alone as the little boy in this story knows so well; he longs to have a friend to share in such games as hide-and-seek and catch.

One day as he sits alone, he spies a paper boat floating towards him; on it is the brief message, BOO! Could perhaps it be from the best friend he so longs for? Messages are exchanged and a meeting arranged.

Bear however isn’t exactly the kind of best friend he so desires. Nevertheless he does invite the bear to play hide-and-seek. The game is not a success, neither are the other activities they try.

Bear however does have other positive qualities that are revealed one morning in autumn. The two then embark upon a collaborative project –

one that once complete results in a special time together.Time doesn’t stand still though and as autumn gives way to winter, Bear has to depart leaving the boy with a realisation of all that he’s lost. But not lost forever: come the spring boy spies not one but three message carrying paper boats …

Tracey’s enchanting tale of the joys of establishing and maintaining a special friendship is illustrated in Sarah’s equally enchanting spreads that show how the friendship develops across the seasons.

A lovely book to be shared over and over.

This Book Just Stole My Cat!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

A certain book seems to have an insatiable desire for furry creatures (and other items on occasion): first it consumed a dog and here it’s become a cat thief. Poor Ben, for it’s his cat that’s gone missing, followed shortly after by Bella who has kindly offered to help in the search.
Along comes a rescue vehicle and guess what …

That leaves only Ben (and a tiny fluffy rodent) to proceed with the rescue mission: Ben however doesn’t last much longer.

Not long after, a message appears requesting the reader’s assistance: tickling seems to be a possible rescue facilitator for said book is bound to respond to a dose of tickly fingers by emitting a rather forceful sneeze.

Yeah! Success! There’s only a slight issue that needs to be sorted now …

Another fun, interactive tale of Ben and Bella for little ones; it’s great for beginning readers too.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam The Missing Masterpiece

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam The Missing Masterpiece
Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton
Nosy Crow

A fox with a penchant for paintings – really? Yes really; one going by the name of Cunningham Sly and he steals them – in Paris no less.

However, that’s where the famous canine bakers Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam have just arrived with a special commission, to create a culinary edifice – a gingerbread Eiffel Tower- in time for the opening of the art exhibition at Galerie Bonbon. With only an hour to complete their work before the doors open, there’s not a second to lose despite the fact that Sam has spotted a ‘wanted’ poster displayed outside and is already on the alert.

En route to the kitchen Sam points out the location of a masterpiece, so he thinks, to Shifty, but his pal is on his way back to their van to collect something they’d left therein.

Once in the kitchen Sam is surprised to encounter a dapper-looking vulpine character and has a strange feeling he looks familiar. The dapper gent however assures him this can’t be so on account of his being an artist who spends all his time indoors on his work. Sam is impressed. But then as he dashes to inform his pal, they see something alarming and immediately, the chase is on.

Can they apprehend the wily thief and if so, will that dip in the River Seine have ruined the priceless Bone-a-Lisa portrait;

or is there perhaps a possibility that two masterpieces, one culinary and one artistic will be on view for the celebratory opening party of the exhibition?

Time after time in this series Tracey delivers a faultless rhyming narrative that is sheer delight to read aloud and full of tasty titbits. Steven Lenton’s scenes with their Parisian backdrop, portray with panache, the bakers’ plight as they strive to complete their double task and avert disaster. (There’s that spider to spot on every spread too.)

Another successful culinary caper with the crime busting canine duo: this would make a cracking TV cartoon or even perhaps, a stage show.

Oliver Elephant / It’s Christmas!

Oliver Elephant
Lou Peacock and Helen Stephens
Nosy Crow
Armed with a list of people to buy for, Noah, his mum and little sister, Evie-May sally forth to the large Christmas shop; Noah with his beloved Oliver Elephant tucked under his arm.
Once inside, Mummy shops while Noah and Oliver play happily until disaster strikes when Oliver dances into a large jug full of baubles …

That disaster pales into insignificance though when it’s followed soon after by another one.
Having finished their shopping mum takes them all to a café and as they are leaving Noah notices that Oliver is no longer with them.
Back to the big shop they dash but a search reveals no sign of his precious toy.
Does Evie-May perhaps know anything about his disappearance?
Fear not: all ends happily although they do have to dash back inside yet again to make one final purchase …
Beautifully told in Lou Peacock’s faultless rhyme and accompanied by Helen Stephens’ gently nostalgic, superbly expressive illustrations – her characterisation is great– this is just right for sharing after a hectic bout of Christmas shopping with your little ones.

 

It’s Christmas!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
The big day is almost here and super-exuberant little rhino Archie is full of the Christmas spirit.
He improves Dad’s Christmas biscuits, and, not content with Mum’s new decorations, redecorates the Christmas tree; but that’s not all; his ideas keep on coming. Having seen Granny and Grandpa’s Christmas jumpers, he decides his own festive jumper needs some sprucing up.
This results in a resounding …

after which mum gives him a very important role as ‘snow watcher’. Bored by the distinct lack of snowflakes though, Archie comes up with his own way of making it snow which precipitates further disasters.
Will the family ever get themselves sorted out in time for Christmas morning?
As always, young Archie knows just how to steal the show and amuse his audience be they young listeners or adult readers aloud.

Seasonally Flavoured Fiction

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Jingle Bells!
Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton
Nosy Crow

If you’ve yet to meet comedic twosome, the wonderful baker dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam I urge you to do so with this book of three stories. Shifty’s the more industrious, of the pair; Sam means well but tends to lack his pal’s organisational skills.
In the first story, the dogs have been commissioned to create Santa’s Christmas cake and deliver it to him the same afternoon. No easy task especially with next-door neighbour Red Rocket determined to create mischief at every opportunity.

The other two tales, Sea-Monster Ahoy! and The Lucky Cat aren’t Christmassy but they are equally good fun and all are perfect for those just taking off as independent readers, who will particularly relish Steve Lenton’s lively scenes of the canine mystery solvers at work.

Harper and the Fire Star
Cerrie Burnell illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
Scholastic

Harper, the girl endowed with a rare musical gift, who resides in the City of Clouds and is able to play any instrument she picks up without learning a single note, returns in her 4th adventure and once again it’s full of music, magic, friendship and gentle humour.
In this story, the Circus of Dreams (Harper’s birthplace) is back in town and as well as seeing her parents, Harper has something important she wants to do and that is to help the Wild Conductor win back his place in the magical show. Why he wants to do so is a mystery to Harper and her friends, nevertheless they put on an amazing show but things don’t quite go according to plan.
Then they learn exactly why getting back into the circus is so important to the Wild Conductor: it’s on account of his love for a girl named Fire Star, so called because ‘whenever she heard music she began to shine like a star.’
Adding to the fun of the tale are Laura Ellen Andersen’s sparkly illustrations.
Always ready to help others, Harper is a delight.

The Storm Dog
Holly Webb
Stripes Publishing

Young Tilly and her mum are going to stay with her Grandma and Great-Gran over Christmas but when work delays her mum, Tilly travels ahead alone on the train.
Great-Gran (almost ninety) has sent Tilly a parcel to open on the train and inside she discovers a Christmas tree decoration and a photo.
Soon, lulled by the motion of the train, Tilly starts to doze and finds herself back in the time when it was her Great-Gran taking the journey as an evacuee more than seventy years back. (Tilly is learning about World War Two for a school project.) She then re-lives some of Great-Gran’s evacuation experiences along with her two younger brothers who also stayed at Mr Thomas’ farm on the Welsh borders, attended the village school, tended the farm animals, had their first experience of snow and sledging, and prepared for the Christmas season..
Tilly forms a special friendship with Tarran, Mr Thomas’ sheepdog and it’s he that plays an important role on more than one occasion.
Gently told, the twisting, turning adventure draws you in right away and keeps you entranced right through to the end. It’s great for giving young readers an insight into life in WW2, especially those who, like Tilly, are learning about the period at school. Line drawings by Artful Doodlers, several per chapter, are scattered throughout the story, further adding to the reader’s enjoyment.

Curse of the Werewolf Boy
Chris Priestley
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This had me gripped from the start. Essentially it’s a boarding school parody of the Gothic kind and its stars, or rather heroes – neither seems to quite fit the bill – Arthur Mildew and Algernon Spongely-Partwork aka Mildew and Sponge are pupils at Maudlin Towers School, by all accounts a pretty awful establishment for the ‘Not Particularly Bright Sons of the Not Especially Wealthy’.
Returning after a half-term holiday, the pupils are informed that a terrible crime has occurred: the School Spoon (once owned by the school’s founder) has been stolen and the headmaster threatens terrible consequences for the culprit(s).
Who better for a spot of detectivating than Mildew and Sponge who are about to learn that crime solving isn’t as easy as they might have thought. Particularly when there’s a ghost in the attic, not to mention a Viking wandering around, a history teacher, one Mr Luckless who has a ‘temporo-trans-navigational-vehicular-engine’ (a time machine to you and me); even a werewolf boy (but you’d expect that from the title), and more.
It’s not only the lead crime solvers who are splendid; every single character is wonderful be they pupil or teacher – you can meet the whole cast at once via the role of honour board at the start of the story. With staff names such as Mr Particle actually newly deceased when the story opens; you can guess what subject he taught, Mr Stupendo and the Latin speaking Miss Livia; and Enderpenny and Furthermore numbering among the pupils.
Then there’s the narrative itself which is peppered with such deliciousness as:
I know what a ha-ha is, you nose hair,” said Kenningworth … ; and
… Mildew’s upper lip began to lose some of its structural integrity…”;
a brilliantly controlled plot that twists and turns while keeping readers totally engrossed throughout its mock scary entirety; and if that’s not enough, the book is chortle-makingly illustrated by none other than Chris Priestly himself.
Why am I including this story in a Christmas review, you might be wondering: that’s for me to know and for you to discover when you get hold of a copy of this cracker of a book.

Fairy Tale Pets

Fairy Tale Pets
Tracey Corderoy and Jorge Martin
Little Tiger Press

Bob and his dog Rex live a happy life in their neat abode but Bob needs a job. Being an animal lover he decides pet-sitting is just the ticket and advertises his services all over town.
The following day business is booming but not with the cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters Bob had been anticipating. Oh dear no!
First comes a golden-haired young miss with a baby bear that needs minding while she’s on her hols.

Next to call is Jack (who insists on paying with beans) and his goose Gabby. Not the comparatively easy task Bob anticipated and before long eggs are flying around all over his once tidy home. That however is actually after the arrival of client number three with her billy goats, and you certainly don’t say no to someone looking like that.

Just when it looks as though matters can’t get any worse, along come three little pigs with their oh so ‘friendly’ um, ‘puppy’. Who are they fooling?
Certainly not young listeners, who by now will be positively squealing with delight.
It’s not difficult to guess what that so called puppy does, which leaves an exasperated Bob without a home or job: he quits pet-sitting and who can blame him; it’s far too hazardous.

That just leaves those beans …
Talk about fairy tale frenzy; Tracey Corderoy’s text is a treat for both listeners (who will enjoy spotting all their favourite characters) and readers aloud.
Laughs aplenty are assured in Jorge Martin’s zesty, slapstick depictions of the mayhem caused by the stream of outlandish animal arrivals at Bob’s residence.
Full of potential following a classroom sharing; but most important, a thoroughly fun-filled picture book.

I’ve signed the charter  

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam The Diamond Chase

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Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Diamond Chase
Steve Lenton and Tracey Corderoy
Nosy Crow
Criminals no longer, Shifty and Sam have replaced their swag bags with bakers hats and are now to be found baking for toffs in upmarket abodes and serving only the jammiest of doughnuts to their clients. They’re presently occupied preparing for Lady Kate’s birthday ball at Woofington Hall where we find them whisking and whirling, patting and icing despite the presence of Lady Kate’s mischievous young nephew, Barnaby who wants to play ball.

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When all the guests are seated and eagerly awaiting the commencement of the feast set out before their eyes, there is one notable absentee, their host, Lady K.
Suddenly she burts on the scene exclaiming “A thief! At my party! My diamond tiara has gone. I’ve been ROBBED!” Silence falls over the room and is then broken by assurances from Sam and Shifty about their thief catching activities of yore and off the three of them go to the crime scene.

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There Lady Kate points out the absence not only of her tiara but also the statue upon which she’d hung it while she set about fluffing her hair. Black and white things are mentioned and suspicion falls immediately on a penguin waiter who just happens to pass by, only to beat a hasty retreat into one of the rooms …

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But the thief’s capture isn’t in the bag so to speak quite yet, for what his pursuers find behind the door is not just the one, but a whole plethora of penguins quite simply, having a ball.

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Will Shifty and Sam unmask the thief and take possession of the missing tiara? Or, will one of their number, Sidney Scarper, do as his name says and well, scarper? Maybe the robber-chasers will have something to thank Barnaby for after all …
With a perfect finale – for most, but not quite the entire cast of characters, this hugely enjoyable romp is sure to please all Shifty and Sam’s established fans, and likely win them a whole lot more, to boot.

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Now! / Say Hello/ Kiss Goodnight

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Now!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
The older little Archie gets, the more demanding (albeit adorable); well maybe he was always VERY demanding but ‘Now’ is a word more frequently used by adults in my experience. Moreover, his constant demanding of same, always tends to end in minor catastrophes – for others mostly…

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though he does sometimes have to learn from his over-eagerness …

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When holiday time looms – ten days away to be precise – Archie finds it hard to contain himself; ten days is an enormously long time to wait. Dad comes up with an idea …

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and a few distractions to help time pass quickly.
Eventually the big H-day dawns and suddenly Archie has changed his tune; “Wait!” he cries. “We can’t go NOW!” …
To discover why Archie is demanding a delay, and to learn if they ever do get that promised plane trip

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and holiday, you’ll need to get hold of a copy of this beautifully funny book. Yet again the Archie/Tracey Corderoy/Tim Warnes amalgam works its magic.

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The little rhino’s always a winner in my book.

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Say Hello
Kiss Goodnight
Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
These two charming little books provide lots of opportunities for the very young to join in with the various baby animal sounds (not forgetting, a human one) and some actions too.
In Say Hello we do just that, first greeting the sun and the day itself …

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and then once they’re awake, greetings can be exchanged with Chick, Piglet, Puppy, Frog, Calf, Bunny, Lamb, Bee (I love this buzzy being) …

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and finally, a Baby “Goo Goo”.
Kiss Goodnight starts by bidding ‘Goodnight’ to the Moon and proffering a kiss to all the ‘Sleepy babies’: Fox … isn’t he adorable?

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Owl, Bat, Mouse, Kitten, Bear, Hedgehog, Wolf and Baby. Shh!
As with all Jane Cabrera’s books, pattern plays an important part: here it’s gorgeous patterned backgrounds against which she places the subjects addressed in the simple, patterned texts  and the brush-stroke patterns on the faces.
Perfect for sharing with the very youngest listeners and ideal too, for slightly older beginning readers to try for themselves. (And far superior to dull early scheme fodder.)
I love the near, but not perfect, symmetry of the various faces …

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and I can see youngsters, inspired by the illustrations, attempting to create similar faces for themselves and perhaps making them into masks.

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Nara and the Island & Squish Squash Squeeze

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Nara and the Island
Dan Ungureanu
Andersen Press
The small girl narrator of this story lives with her dad on a tiny island, ‘so small, you can’t lose anything’ is what he tells her. Across the water some way away is another island and sometimes the child sits looking at it from her special secret hiding place. As she sits staring she imagines getting across …

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but then one day her dad discovers her hiding place and with repaired boat, the two embark on an adventure. Dad’s quest is to find the legendary Big Fish, his daughter’s mission to explore the shores of the other island.

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Once ashore though, the girl feels overwhelmed by the strange sights and sounds around her but then she meets a boy, Aran.

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The two compare their respective homes – hers so small and quiet, his so wild and noisy – and find they share the need for a hideaway of their own. Aran then offers to share his with his new friend.
The lightened colours of Ungureanu’s scenes have a subtle other-worldly quality that add a touch of magic to the whole undertaking and the final “I think I’d like that.” comment of the girl narrator

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opens the way for readers’ imaginations to take over.

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Squish Squash Squeeze
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
When Mouse arrives at his new home it looks nigh on perfect for his needs, there’s even a piano. But suddenly there appears a large and very growly bear who is not at all keen on sharing the space, indeed claiming …”there’s NO ROOM HERE, not even for a mouse!” Undaunted, Mouse continues unpacking his belongings and inviting the bear to help. Off he goes, skipping upstairs, only to find himself confronting another enormous creature occupying the bathroom …

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But he’s not the final surprise: as Mouse continues finding places for his belongings, another animal makes an appearance.
Seemingly there is only one thing to do and that’s share a cuppa …

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albeit with a bit of a wiggling and jiggling. But then from under the floorboards, there comes a RUMBLE-THRUMBLE-THUMP! followed shortly by a tumble, tumble BUMP! (that’s Mouse) and a satisfying surprise that seemingly solves everyone’s space problem once and for all.
With a repeat refrain for listeners to join in with and some opportunities for roaring and snapping too, there’s plenty to entertain early years audiences, not least the satisfying fold-out finale, though every one of Jane Chapman’s spreads provides plenty of gigglesome details.

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Snowstorm Sorties

 

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Snow Bear
Tony Mitton and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
From my first view of the cover, I fell for Snow Bear in a big way; he’s adorable but this is no sentimental story and Snow Bear is one determined character. He’s seeking a home, somewhere warm where he can snuggle up away from the raging icy blizzard. His forest wanderings take him to a fox’s den,

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and an owl’s nest up in a tree …

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but both are fully occupied, so lonely and shivering, Snow Bear trudges onwards till finally he comes upon somewhere that looks more promising – a small farmhouse.

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‘A chilly breeze ruffles the fur on his cheek,/ so Bear tiptoes in as the door gives a creak. / Inside it is warm, for the fire burns bright./ and Snow Bear can see by its flickering light.’
In sneaks Bear and there he comes upon a small girl, equally alone and in need of someone to hug. Having shared same, they snuggle up for a story, a fireside snooze …

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and eventually, head upstairs, for a ‘midwinter nap’ – friends together.
Tony Mitton’s rhyming tale has just the right degree of pathos and reads aloud well; and Alison Brown’s illustrations rendered in acrylics and I think, pencil, are sheer delight. Shaggy cushion-like Bear (thumb-sucking in the final spread), in particular, but also Fox with that pointy nose that to me, resembles the front of a jet plane, and startled-looking ‘tufty gruff Owl’ are splendid.
With the contrasting themes of loneliness and friendship at its heart, this tender, timeless story is just the thing to bring a warm glow to a chilly winter’s day or night.

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One Snowy Rescue
M Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Little Tiger Press
Little Hedgehog has a whole series of stories all his own, his friends are there too of course. Here he stars in another snow-filled adventure – more and deeper snow in fact than our prickly pal has ever seen before. So much that a snowdrift surrounds his house and he has to dig himself out. Exhausted having done so, the kind-hearted creature’s first thoughts are of his friend Mouse and off he goes to see how she’s faring. But despite his careful tread, he soon finds himself tumbling …

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into a huge snowdrift.
It’s fortunate for him then that Little Hedgehog happens to be wearing his floppy red hat –

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just the thing for a rescue-wanted signal. And equally fortunately, who should happen along at just the right moment but Rabbit who heaves him out …

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and the two continue together but get lost. Fox comes to the rescue this time, but even that is not the end of the story for soon, another rescue is needed. Badger joins the team having been alerted by that trusty red hat again and finally, led by Badger, the object of their search – Mouse and offspring – together with the friendly entourage, head home for supper in the silvery moonlight. How versatile that hat is …

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A warm-hearted tale about putting the needs of others first, with the spiky hero, bold and resourceful as ever heading the cast of characters in a finely paced, festive foray that is delightfully depicted in Tina Mcnaughton’s bold, bright snowscapes.
Also from Little Tiger Press, newly in paperback and reviewed last year is:
The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Here is Emmanuelle lost in the wonderful magic of a determined penguin, Wellington, and his snowy garden.

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Thieves At Large

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Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Cat Burglar
Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lennon
Nosy Crow
Reformed robbers of repute, Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are now successful bakers with their own café, an establishment frequented by those who particularly enjoy a good gossip; and there are plenty. One day Sam shares the latest news headlines with their customers: one Kitty Le Claw – a fiendish feline if ever there was one – is in town.

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Such news warrants a top secret meeting, but this is no sooner under way when a desperate-looking job-seeker arrives at the door.

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Ruby, for that is her name (supposedly – though young audiences will already be suspicious) is quickly taken on and becomes a star baker of delicious confections, waitress and cleaner.
At the end of the day as a result of Ruby’s sweeping and tidying, the dogs discover a secret tunnel in the basement of their establishment and are almost tempted back into their old ways but instead find themselves turning detective. But can they manage to apprehend the criminal and turn her over to the law? Well, Kitty is a certainly a pretty slippery character but …

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This is a second crazy canine caper from Corderoy and Lenton; she provides a pacey text that’s enormous fun to read aloud especially if you enjoy high drama; and he supplies the delectable visuals. The details therein are almost as delicious as the fare served up in Shifty and Sam’s establishment and the sight of those infant canines looking longingly at the cakes is a joy in itself.
Yummy stuff say I.

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The Cherry Thief
Renata Galindo
Child’s Play pbk
Chef Armand is a celebrated pastry cook; the rosy red cherries he decorates his confections with are his trademark. He’s even named his patisserie La Cerise. But then one day he notices that the cherries have begun to disappear. Quelle horreur! Has he merely forgotten to add them perhaps? No, not so but what an embarrassment when customers complain …

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Time to discover the perpetrator of the outrage decides the chef. I could say track down but our perplexed chef has missed the clue. His dog however, like children, is more aware and has noticed the telltale tiny blue footprints.
Having drawn Chef Armand’s attention to same, the two lie in wait and eventually the thief makes an appearance. A chase ensues: the thief eventually escapes leaving behind in the trail of havoc, something amazing

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and ultimately fruitful for all concerned…

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A tasty diversion illustrated in a spare style that children may well try to emulate. My audiences loved the slapstick humour of the chase,

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delighted in the small details and characterisation, and were surprised by the rapid growth of the tree. “Well, it’s just magic,” one suggested.

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Double? More? Too Much?

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Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!
Atinuke and Lauren Tobia
Walker Books
When Anna Hibiscus discovers that the ‘big bump’ is twin brothers, she knows that she’s in for some “Big Trouble” as her cousin Chocolate puts it. What it means immediately though is that none of the family seems to have time for her any more; they’re all far too busy with extra work that’s a result of the two newcomers. Uncle Sam is busy making food for Anna’s mum; her Grandmother has been up all night and now needs to sleep and her aunties are baby minding.

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Poor Anna Hibiscus finally loses her temper and shouts, which sets the babies off bawling and she herself dissolves into tears. Oh Dear! It’s then that Papa finally takes notice of her and explains the implications of Double Trouble: sharing is now the order of the day.
Eventually though, people do pay her attention  and then it’s the turn of that big sister to become a comforter.

 

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It will take time for young Anna Hibiscus to learn how to accommodate those newcomers, and she has to learn to take turns for her mother’s hugs and sometimes even share them with others…

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I’ve loved all the Anna Hibiscus stories: this one too is a real delight and it’s absolutely perfect for those with a new baby in the family or anyone anticipating a new arrival. Those gorgeously warm-hearted illustrations are just the business.

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More!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press pbk
In most very young infants, the acquisition of a new word is a cause for celebration. However when young Alfie rhino adds “More!” to his vocabulary the result is destruction,

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and all manner of excesses, some dietary, others very noisy or messy or, on occasion, something rather more desirable.
So when he is invited to a fancy dress party he gets more than a little carried away with the design of his costume

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and despite its amazingness, it has distinct disadvantages when it comes to joining in the party fun especially at cake-sharing time …
Fortunately though having more than just a few friends is one thing that does work in his favour, and all ends happily.
The young charmer is sure to win further friends with his latest romp: as always it is delivered with appropriate verve and exuberance in both words and pictures. Share with Alfies and other littles of the human variety and I suspect they’ll straightway ask for MORE!

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No More Cuddles!
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
Despite living alone in the forest, Barry suffers from a surfeit of cuddles: he’s literally smothered by them and it’s all a bit too much.
A disguise might do the trick, he thinks to himself; but it just isn’t scary enough.

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Angry growls and scowls don’t work either; something more drastic is required seemingly. So Barry advertises for a relief cuddler and finally along comes one that meets the job description perfectly. Even then though, the animals continue to hurl themselves at Barry and he finds himself hurtling into a mucky swamp and it’s there that he gains a bit of well-earned respite.
Exuberant scenes and a decidedly cuddle-able main character, not to mention a host of delightful bit part players, are the chief ingredients of this warm-hearted story.

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Hubert Horatio
Lauren Child
Puffin pbk
Child prodigy, Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent, (referred to as H by his ultra-rich, but forgetful parents) starts to call the tune right from his early infancy. He cannot however do anything about the fact that the nightly cup of cocoa he and his parents share is always cold by the time the lad has climbed the numerous flights of stairs to the parental bedroom. Despite this, life jogs along happily for Horatio until one day his parents throw a party and the jelly runs out halfway through. Very odd, thinks Horatio but that is only the start of the family’s woes and before long he realizes that his parents are financially embarrassed, to say the least.
The young lad takes the initiative and money-making plans intended to refill the family coffers are soon put into action. But Mr and Mrs Bobton-Trent continue to party and live the high life

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until a frustrated HH decides downsizing is their only option. The family moves to a new home – 17b Plankton Heights – and there surprisingly, Horatio’s mum and dad settle quickly and woopy-do – because of the short distance to walk, everyone’s cocoa is still warm by the time it arrives at the parental bedroom.
Highly entertaining with wonderfully whimsical, richly patterned collage-style illustrations, Hubert Horatio is truly a force to be reckoned with.

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Dads and A Digger-Driving Pirate

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Daddy I Can’t Sleep
Alan Durant and Judi Abbot
Picture Corgi pbk
It’s bedtime for Little Panda but he just cannot get to sleep: He can hear all kinds of scary noises. What could be roaring and howling outside their cave in the forest?
Fortunately, Daddy Panda knows exactly how to quell those fears. Taking Little Panda on his back off he goes into the forest and there they hear not scary sounds, but the gentle music of the bamboos,

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see the palm fronds waving bird-like in the wind and smell the sweet aroma of the fresh juicy shoots. Then having collected stem, leaves

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and shoots they head home and after partaking of a tasty treat, Little Panda snuggles down in bed. But before he sleeps there’s a lovely surprise – or rather, two lovely surprises – waiting for him, courtesy of Daddy Panda.

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A warm, reassuring tale with a pair of delightful characters; what a super, empathetic father figure Daddy Panda is. Judi Abbot’s densely coloured illustrations capture the atmosphere of the moonlit forest beautifully and those panda expressions speak volumes. Snuggle up close and share at bedtime or any time.

 

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I Want My Daddy
Tracey Corderoy and Alison Edgson
Little Tiger Press
There are times when only a dad will do and Arthur is having one of those days. The first time it’s when his castle collapses, then when his knightly activities cause him to come a cropper

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and after that his foray into fishing proves rather too much for the youngster. But happily for Arthur his Daddy is on hand to rescue the situation every time disaster strikes. After such an eventful day the young knight decides from the safety of his super new castle that it is time to inaugurate a very special king to rule over the kingdom and he sets to work creating …

 

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Share with Dads (and others) especially after one of those days when everything’s been just a bit too much. We can all applaud the fatherly care and consideration shown to young Arthur in this warm-hearted story for the very young.

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Pirates Don’t Drive Diggers
Alex English and Duncan Beady
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Brad comes from pirating stock; his Dad is determined young Pirate Brad should go off and join a crew. Brad however, has other plans: rather than fighting and plundering, he longs for a life driving diggers on a building site. Dad wishes win the day and so Bradley packs his bag and boards ship as crew member of the Salty Dog.

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Right from the start though, Brad fails to live up to Captain Blood’s expectations: his compass reading is topsy turvy, sword fights turn him to a quivering, cowering jelly and he takes a terrible tumble landing right in Blood’s bunk.
Begging for a final chance, Brad is presented with a large map and ordered to return with the treasure or walk the plank, so off he rows, fearing for his life. As luck would have it however, he eventually lands up on shore and having found the X begins to dig but …

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Surely our Brad isn’t about to meet his doom? As he keeps saying, “A pirate’s life is not for me,/ I want to drive a digger, see.” Hold on though lad … what did you just say? Off he dashes to the building site.

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But can he persuade those astonished builders to help him out? What do you think? …

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Snowy Worlds

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The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
When penguin, Wellington, sees a beautiful garden in a picture book he shares with friend, Rosemary, he determines to grow one like it. His friends are skeptical: “… flowers can’t grow in the snow,” they tell him but then Wellington has an inspiration: instead of growing a garden, he can make one. And he does, with Rosemary’s help, a shiny blue biscuit wrapper and all manner of bits and pieces. Soon the garden is in full bloom: now his friends are impressed but then comes a storm that whirls Wellington’s garden right away. Is that the end of his beautiful creations? No – thanks to Rosemary, that blue biscuit wrapper, all Wellington’s friends, and most important, Wellington’s creativity and resolve, a wonderful new snow-sparkling garden comes into being, one that everyone wants to see.

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You never know what you can do until you try!” Ivor tells Wellington and he’s absolutely right.
Long live determination and divergent thinking.
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Snowflakes
Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson
Scholastic pbk
Newly arrived from her city home, a little girl Mia arrives to live at her Grandma’s deep in a forest. Inevitably she finds her gran’s wooden house surrounded by whispering trees strange and her days become a series of one new experience after another. There’s her first ever winter coat and hat,

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feeding the hens with Grandma and the strange silvery shadows of the forest on her way to see her soon to be new school.

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But then comes a fall of snow making things feel magical and Mia too feels touched by the magic: “Every snowflake is different, every snowflake is perfect” she tells herself realizing that she too is perfect. From then on Mia is able to start to come to terms with her new life , to embrace the changes and begin to make new friends.

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This reassuring story with its important theme, that every child is special and unique, is sensitively told by C Beebies presenter, Cerrie Burnell and beautifully illustrated to bring out both Mia’s changing feelings and the atmosphere of her new home.
Showing, not telling is very much the way in this inclusive book. That much is left unsaid allows children to bring their own experience, interpretations and ideas to the story; ideas concerning why Mia had to go and live with Grandma Mitzi whom she hardly knew, why she’d never before worn a coat and only heard of forests in storybooks for instance.
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Finally a couple of wintry books previously reviewed but now out in paperback and too good to miss are:
Max Velthuijs’ Frog in Winter an old favourite from over 20 years ago newly reissued by Andersen Press wherein Frog finds it impossible to embrace the joys of the newly fallen snow.

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And Layn Marlow’s gorgeous book from last year about a small child making a snowman, You Make Me Smile (Oxford University Press); I’m sure it will make you smile too.

 

 

 

 

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Shopping

Billy the Goat’s Big Breakfast
Jez Alborough
Doubleday
As Nat the Cat prepares a tasty breakfast to share with her friends Billy Goat and Hugo Hare, she is interrupted by the early arrival of a ravenous Billy. Nat leaves Billy waiting and continues her preparations but her pal is unable to resist the temptation to start sampling the food and before long, not only has he slurped all the juice but also taken an enormous bite of the bread – a very gooey mouthful. That’s when the real trouble begins; instead of a rumbling tum, Billy Goat now has a gurgling, swelling one not to mention a very sticky grin. It’s that grin which causes Nat to take her bag and head off to the shops leaving Hugo Hare to listen to Billy Goat’s confession. On her return she discovers Billy wrapped in a coat supposedly cold and tells him to sit by the fire. Well, we know and she knows what will happen then… Time for Billy to own up to his hostess but she knows he has learned his lesson so its time for a belated breakfast and a singsong. (words are provided).
Alborough’s gentle cautionary tale bounces along and his large illustrations are immediately engaging. The expressions on the faces of the three friends, particularly Billy Goat’s, are hilarious. Billy’s Breakfast Song can be downloaded from http://www.jezalborough.com.billythegoat
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Just out in paperback is Jez Alborough’s first story about the three friends, Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile previously reviewed in the March Selection.

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The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet!
Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter illustrated by Garry Parsons
Red Fox pbk.
The McFly’s Christmas pooping dinosaur is back in another rhyming romp. This time, armed with a packed lunch, he accompanies Danny to the Science Museum to see the rockets. They discover one with a door large enough for a boy plus pet dinosaur to go inside. It’s an open invitation and needless to say, the temptation to touch the controls is too great: Intergalactic Mission is under way. Before long the dinosaur’s tummy rumbles in readiness for lunch but where are those packed lunches? Certainly not on board! So begins a disastrous dinosaur feast and not only the controls but great chunks of the rocket itself are consumed, even the moon, Martians and more are munched. Finally, with nothing at all left of their rocket and Danny crying space-suits full of tears, the dinosaur realizes there is only one way to get them safely back to earth. Time for another pooping plan to be put into action right away…
Poo, planets and pandemonium – definitely a recipe for resounding success with small children who will laugh uproariously at the galactic gallivanting of the boy and his pet, hilariously portrayed and documented in tongue teasing verse that will have many adults in fits too.
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Ding Dong Gorilla!
Michelle Robinson and Leonie Lord
Orchard Books pbk.
In this ‘off the wall’ story, we hear first hand from a small boy what happens when he opens the door, not to the pizza delivery boy who is expected but to an enormous gorilla. Said gorilla barges into the house and proceeds in pursuit of fun, to take enormous liberties creating havoc all over the house and in the garden too. Such activities as crayoning, dressing up and picking flowers not to mention smashing a vase, a window and a chair have given him large appetite, so he sets to work creating even more mess with the blender and ingredients for a chocolate cake. Finally the delivery boy does turn up with the order but guess what – there is a big black hairy shape exiting through the front door clutching a huge cheesy pizza just as a pair of high heeled feet can be seen on the stair.
It’s truly amazing just how much chaos one gorilla or one small boy can create in the time between ordering a pizza and his mother going upstairs to get ready for dinner. Leonie Lord runs riot with wonderful scenes of devastation at every turn of the page; I know a good many mums with young children who will recognize such scenes. Wonderful stuff.
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Spells-A-Popping Granny’s Shopping
Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow pbk.
Supermarket shopping can be rather a bore but that is definitely not the case in this story. The little girl narrator recounts what happens when she accompanies her Granny to stock up on provisions, a granny who just happens to be a witch. Needless to say it’s not long before biscuits are dancing, popcorn is popping and the fish fingers are swimming towards the door. And that’s before the two of them spot a couple of robbers stashing sweets and cakes into a large sack. Time for another wave of granny’s wand and a bit of help from a chocolate bear and then, robbers safely under arrest it’s back home and a tasty meal for two cooked up by one very special granny.
Zany characters, action-packed scenes full of amusing details and a lively rhyming text – just the right ingredients for a hugely enjoyable storytime read.
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