The Carnivorous Crocodile

The Carnivorous Crocodile
Jonnie Wild and Brita Granström
Otter-Barry Books

What would you do if you were a thirsty creature desperate for a cooling drink from the waterhole, but the animals warned you of a carnivorous crocodile lurking within and claiming ownership of its waters? Probably you’d stay safely on the bank, but that is not what the five flamingos do.
We’re not frightened of a silly old croc,” is their response on hearing about the likelihood of being crunched by said croc. as they sally forth into the water.

As expected the resident crocodile happens along, jaws agaping and threatening, “I’m a carnivorous crocodile who crunches creatures like you. And this is MY waterhole.
Did those flamingos flinch or show any other signs of fear? Oh no; instead they responded thus: “We are flamingos. WE are pink and beautiful. And WE are NOT FOR EATING! If you eat us, you will have horrible hiccups!
This possibility does not appeal to the crocodile and off it swims.

Heartened by this display of bravado, and encouragement to “Be brave”, three giraffes gingerly enter the water. Before you can say ‘snap’ who should be there repeating his threat but that crocodile, only to be greeted by the same “We are flamingos …” mantra and amazingly off swims the jaw snapper.
Next comes a family of monkeys and off we go again.

This time though the crocodile is a tad suspicious but he swims off nonetheless.

Two eager elephants march confidently forwards and they too claim to be flamingos – pink and beautiful.
The crocodile may not fall for this subterfuge again but he’s certainly in for a surprise, for elephants have other, shall we say, more weighty characteristics …

This learning to share story certainly appeals to children’s (and adults’) sense of the ridiculous; and readers aloud will relish the opportunity to ham it up – certainly this reviewer did. Debut author Jonnie Wild, is passionate about environmental issues and is donating his royalties to charities supporting African wildlife conservation.

Brita Granström’s scenes of the various animals shape-shifting attempting to emulate the flamingo pose and take on the flamingo characteristics are highly inventive and delightfully droll; even the elephants make a brave attempt.

A highly successful collaboration and a great book to share; don’t forget to check out the information on some of the animals and conservation on the final page.

Emmanuelle engrossed in the antics of the animals

Tug of War

Tug of War
Naomi Howarth
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Naomi Howarth has chosen to retell a West African myth for her follow up to The Crow’s Tale and once again it’s a visual stunner from beginning to end.
It recounts how Tortoise, having received rebuffs and insults from pompous Elephant and Hippo in his search for a friend, unleashes a battle of forces between the two large animals.
Encouraged by Bird, he racks his brains before coming up with his tricky plan.

Tortoise challenges both large beasts to hold onto the end of a vine and engage with him in a tug of war.
Unsurprisingly neither Elephant nor Hippo can turn down a dare, so the two find themselves unwittingly pitting their strength against one another until …

Upon realising that they’ve both been well and truly duped by such a small creature as Tortoise, the two pachyderms acknowledge their foolishness and make amends to their trickster by inviting him to become their friend.

With minute attention to detail, Naomi Howarth’s outstandingly beautiful illustrations (a combination of lithography and watercolour), executed in exquisite jewel colours on every page, underline the inherent mind over might, and the importance of friendship messages of the traditional tale.

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The Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show

The Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show
Mini Grey
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
The lengths performers will go to in order to be in the limelight is beautifully played out in Mini Grey’s latest extravaganza. It stars – or rather should have starred, the Great Hypno himself but he is currently unavailable, so we learn. A new act has taken his place featuring two mischievous rabbits, Mr Abra and Mr Cadabra. Be warned though, this act is full of dangerous sleights of paw and wand-waving, not to mention outrageously difficult knife-throwing.

Oh and there’s a spot of saw-wielding too …

but those bunnies are not the only ones up to a spot of trickery.
The lovely Brenda is now free, and her upper portion is presently performing a feat of padlock-picking while the roguish rabbits are otherwise engaged attempting to persuade their audience to part with their precious items.

So fixated on their grand finale are the pair that they fail to notice that the show’s rightful star is now on the loose, ready to step in and ensure that the show comes to a conclusion with an ear-splitting BOOM! Although that’s not quite the end of the story …
As always, Mini Grey delivers a top class, show-stopping performance, full of surprises, larger-than-life characters and laugh-inducing scenes. Her comic timing is supreme, herein aided and abetted by strategically placed flaps, cutaway pages and a fold-out.

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Edgar and the Sausage Inspector

Edgar and the Sausage Inspector
Jan Fearnley
Nosy Crow
Edgar and Edith are brother and sister and there’s nothing Edward likes more than to make Edith happy. Determined to provide a tasty treat for his sibling, he sets out into town to buy something really tasty for dinner. Sure enough, very soon he spies the ideal treat: her very favourite food – sausages. Feeling extremely pleased with his purchase Edward heads home. Suddenly though, he’s apprehended by a hat-wearing rat blocking his path, claiming to be “The Inspector” and demanding a look in Edgar’s bag. Duped by the creature’s appearance, Edgar shows the inspector his purchase and immediately has it confiscated “for further inspection”. Consequently it’s a very dull dinner for the cat duo that evening as poor Edgar explains about the rat.
Next day however, Edgar’s off again determined to make up for his previous loss and this time his purchase is some delicious cakes from the patisserie.

Off he sets home clutching his basket when who should appear again but The Inspector –sporting not only a hat but also a large badge this time. Once more it’s the rat who enters his hole in the wall with his paws full and Edgar who heads home empty handed.

Day three dawns with both brother and sister’s tummies exceedingly rumbly. Off goes Edgar, loads up his shopper with yummy treats and …

Will Edith ever get that scrumptious repast her brother so longs to provide for her? And will that significantly more rotund, dastardly rat ‘Inspector’ get his just desserts?
Jan Fearnley exploits the inverted slang use of the word ‘bad’ (popular with teenagers) cleverly in her amusing story, which is based on a feline member of her own household. The text, with its rogue inspector and his repeated “Hold it right there!” refrain is enormous fun to read aloud and cries out for audience participation. The variety of perspective and depth of field in Jan’s illustrations draws the eye into the action, and helps focus attention on the wealth of detail in every one, be it double spread, single page or vignette.
Altogether a scrumptious feast for ear and eye.

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Gecko’s Echo / Monster Baby

Gecko’s Echo
Lucy Rowland and Natasha Rimmington
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The lengths a soon-to-be mother goes to in order to protect her eggs is hilariously demonstrated in this delicious rhyming tale by debut author, Lucy Rowland. Meet brave Mummy Gecko who stands up to the threats of Snakey,

and Eagle (later in the day) with warnings about “a hundred angry geckos”.
Come the evening, a very nasty-looking, ravenous rat appears, also with designs on the eggs; he though is less easily convinced. His response to Gecko’s, “If you’re staying I can show you … I hope you’re feeling brave.

is met with a spot of lip licking and “Why, yes I’m staying Gecko, / and I’m having eggs for tea./ A hundred geckos living here?!/ I don’t believe it’s true. … /I’m quite sure it’s only you.
Whereupon the wily Mrs G. lets forth an enormous “RAAAAH!” and back come those hundred voices …
Guess who beats a rather hasty retreat, leaving one echoing gecko to have the last laugh. The last laugh maybe, but not the peaceful evening she’d anticipated for, with a wibble and a wobble, what should appear but …

A real winner of a book with plenty of opportunities for audience participation, laughs galore and superbly expressive illustrations by Natasha Rimmington. Her wily animal characters are absolutely wonderful.

Monster Baby
Sarah Dyer
Otter-Barry Books
A topic that has been the theme of numerous picture books already is given a cute narrator herein.
Little Monster is none too thrilled at the prospect of an even littler monster; neither is Scamp, the family pet. Even before the newcomer arrives though, it’s presence is being felt: rest and healthy food are on the agenda and not only for Mum. The expectant monster needs a great deal of rest, which may account in part for her increase in girth, and certainly gets in the way of carrying the young narrator. He’s far from impressed with the scan either:

a wiggly worm is how it appears to Little Monster, but probably because Mum has several months to go yet: even so it’s capable of hearing apparently.
When the big day finally comes around, Granny comes to stay and Dad takes Mum Monster to hospital; the baby is duly delivered and Little Monster becomes a ‘BIG’ one according to his dad.
Having Mum and baby back home gives rise to mixed feelings on the narrator’s part: it’s great to have Mum around; but that noise-making babe is going to take a fair bit of getting used to. The inevitable feelings of being left out soon give way to accommodation and thereafter, the beginnings of a bond of brotherly love starts to form …

Sarah Dyer’s Little Monster is adorable: his account of the weeks leading up to, and just after, the arrival of his new sibling will be enjoyed not only by those in a similar situation, but also general early years audiences, whether this is shared at home or pre-school.

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Triangle

Triangle
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Walker Books
Knowledge of a friend’s ophidiophobia is in part, the driving force behind Triangle’s foray from his home in his triangular neighbourhood, across a barren place of rocky humps ‘They were shapes with no names’ Barnett informs us; and on through the place of squares –

big, medium and small ones – to Square’s abode. All the while he’s been plotting the sneaky trick he’s about to play.
He walks right up Square’s door, whereupon he delivers a round of snake-like “HISS” sounds.
Square is momentarily petrified: Snake dissolves into paroxysms of laughter. A pregnant pause follows,

rapidly replaced on Square’s part by incandescent rage.
Thereupon the four-sided being chases the three-sider all the way back to his home. His shape however, prevents him from entering and there he stands stuck in the doorway and thus accidentally discovers Triangle’s nyctophobia.

I know you’re afraid of the dark. Now I have played a sneaky trick on you! You see, Triangle, this was my plan all along.” Hmm! I’m not so sure about that.
Klassen’s restrained earthy palette and minimalist scenes (those eloquent eyes again), are in perfect harmony with Barnett’s even sparer, deadpan text allowing readers to step into the narrative landscape and fill for themselves, the host of gaps left by the book’s genius creators.
Prankish play or something more sinister? I come down on the side of the former.
This book is the first of a planned trilogy from this formidable team: I eagerly anticipate the next one … and the next.

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Wolfish Stew

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Wolfish Stew
Suzi Moore and Erica Salcedo
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
We all agree, wolves in stories are generally the baddies that get their just desserts, don’t we? Now you might just find yourself showing a little bit of sympathy for the particular wolf character in this treat of a tale, which certainly has a spicy final twist to it. Let’s get back to the start though with this:
There once was a rabbit/whose name was Grey. And he went to the woods/to pick berries one day.’
Now of course, where there are woods – and certainly in stories – there are also frequently, something else beginning with w and so too, is it in this instance. In fact here is one in particular, going by the name of Blue, a cunning, mean, sneaky creature with an enormous tail and a overwhelming desire for a special ingredient for his wolfish stew. No prizes for guessing what that might be …

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Hence all these warnings uttered to Grey as he makes his way on his foraging expedition through those woods …

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woods wherein lurks a pair of hairy, slightly nobbly knees, a massive appendage attached to a hairy posterior, wellie –shod feet and a very protruding snout. Hmm. Did I just see a knife and fork being brandished there too?

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It’s as well then that our little Grey pal is a wily creature with more than his fair share of tricks tucked in his fur – not to mention useful devices stashed in his burrow.

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Oh! What was that I just heard? Surely not Blue singing Grey’s song, was it? Yes it was.
Could it possibly be that, there’s a character even more ruthless than he residing in this particular story, one that’s been planning for an extra special ingredient to make his suppertime repast even more of a delicious concoction than usual? Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it.
What can be said however, is that this is destined to be wolfed down with delighted squeals of “More please!” and “Again, again!’ and that the rather dark wolfalicious outcome may not meet with everyone’s approval: it’s all a matter of taste.
Erica Salcedo’s utterly scrummy illustrations are brimming over with tasty tidbits and moreish humour, providing the perfect accompaniment to Suzi Moore’s.truly toothsome text.

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