Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books

For me there’s nothing worse than feeling trapped between the walls of my home however safe and secure it might be. And I suspect most of us have experienced some claustrophobic feelings during the last sixteen or so months, though I’m lucky to be living at present in the countryside surrounded by green spaces that I’ve taken advantage of no matter the weather. Hurrah for the big wide world waiting outside your immediate cosy environs, both physical and mental.

So let’s now meet the aptly named Ergo, a cute baby chick that’s just woken up to her own physicality. She decides to explore the world: first she finds her toes, ‘wiggle, wiggle ‘ now that’s a GREAT START and it’s followed by wings, beak and legs. Now that’s a small world: AM I THE WORLD though?

Ergo concludes that she is. Until she notices the wall surrounding her – a roly poly world then.

Suddenly into this hitherto perfect world intrudes a sound – BUMP and it’s closely followed by a realisation. Time to embark on a journey of discovery perhaps …but it’s going to take some pluck to reach out. Can Ergo make that vital truth searching move? …

What Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz have so cleverly created here is a philosophical demonstration of freeing oneself, of going beyond the information given and of reaching out to others. Seemingly simple perhaps, but this is a highly thought-provoking and a smashing starting point for a philosophy for children discussion in the primary classroom.

How To Be On The Moon

How To Be On The Moon
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books

This sequel to How to Find Gold again stars intrepid Anna and careful Crocodile.

Anna is eager to visit the moon but Crocodile is less than enthusiastic telling her it’s “out in space … really very far away … almost impossible.”

This appeals to Anna but first they have to acquire some special skills, counters Crocodile; but Anna can count backwards from five.
In fact he raises a snag at every opportunity: a great deal of patience is necessary: Crocodile has sufficient for them both, he’s told eventually.

Crocodile is then allocated the task of sandwich making while Anna builds the rocket.
Tasks complete, they count down and … blast off …

While on board they play the only game gravity allows – it involves sandwich catching and consumption (once you’ve caught all the constituents) and then as it’s still some distance to go, take a patience-extending snooze.

Finally though they land on the moon, finish their sandwiches, don space helmets and go out exploring the deserted moonscape.

Before long, as they gaze up Anna decides that “Poor Earth” is missing them and they decide to head off back home.

Once more on Earth, they bask briefly in mission-accomplished glory before deciding the rest of the world needs checking on, and off they set …

A smashing story – one expects no less from Viviane – but it’s the wonderful, wondrous textured illustrations that steal the show – just!  The dialogue’s absolutely priceless too. And I absolutely love how the two contrasting yet complementary characters rub along together so beautifully.

Sheer delight through and through.

Animals with Tiny Cat / 15 things NOT to do with a Puppy

Animals with Tiny Cat
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books

Viviane Schwarz’a Tiny Cat of There Are Cats in This Book and There Are No Cats in This Book fame is back and as always, is in a playful mood.

With the aid of a few simple props, our feline friend transforms first into a mouse, then an elephant, followed by a …

a horse, a porcupine …

a snake and a spider.

Suddenly though, the pile of discarded items takes on a life of its own …

Is there anything Tiny Cat can become that will send that fearsome beastie packing? …

Viviane Schawarz’s wonderfully playful imagination has, once again, produced a seemingly effortless performance for her moggy star.

Be ready for enthusiastic squeaking, tooting, neighing, hissing and more when you share this one.
Then, I’d suggest leaving the book in a suitable spot in your early years setting together with a few well-chosen items and see what your listeners turn themselves into.

15 things NOT to do with a Puppy
Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This is the latest in Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling’s instruction manual series. Herein the topic is canine care and the two toddler presenters pretty much have the whole thing worked out. Presumably they speak from experience and if you’ve recently added a puppy to your household, then this book has some sound advice.

Hang-gliding, tuba lessons (as if), and getting its paws on the remote control are definite no-nos. So too are taking the pup to some of the children’s favourite places; and gardening is completely out of the question.

Football matches and the library are also definite no-go areas and for safety’s sake keep the animal from the driving seat of the car …

and well away from the sink too. Cafes are off limits as are shopping expeditions.

On the other hand, the dos are relatively straightforward: in a nutshell, love, play, food, drink and sleep work wonders.

The main characters, both human and canine are full of youthful exuberance as are the humorous possibilities of the scenarios presented in Holly Sterling’s illustrations of same.

I’ve singed the charter  

Counting with Tiny Cat / The Fox Wish

Counting with Tiny Cat
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books
Tiny Cat is an energetic bundle of mischief with a particular penchant for red wool. At the outset there isn’t any but then yippee! A ball of the red stuff rolls right along. That quickly becomes TWO! THREE! FOUR! Which is all the creature can really juggle; but still they keep coming.

Clearly Tiny Cat’s counting skills have yet to develop further, though oddly the feline’s vocabulary encompasses ‘ABOUT A DOZEN– emphasis on the about here I should add.

Still though, the creature’s appetite for the red stuff isn’t satisfied: ‘LOTS’ leads to a very greedy ‘AS MANY AS YOU CAN GET’ but even that isn’t sufficient. SOME EXTRA gives way to …

Will the frisky thing ever realise that enough is enough?
A wonderful visual comedy with a delightfully playful star: Tiny Cat most definitely commands the performance, and viewers will definitely demand instant encores.

The Fox Wish
Kimiko Aman and Komako Sakai
Chronicle Books
A small girl – the narrator – and her younger brother return to the playground in search of the skipping rope left behind earlier. There’s no sign of their rope but they follow some sounds of laughter and in the clearing, come upon, not the friends they’d anticipated. but a group of foxes enjoying a skipping game.

Doxy, foxy, / touch the ground. / Doxy, foxy, / turn around. / Turn to the east, / and turn to the west, / and choose the one that / you like best.
The children decide the foxes are less adept skippers than they on account of their tails and Luke lets out a giggle. Fortunately the foxes aren’t offended: instead they approach the children and ask for some coaching. Soon animals and humans are playing together happily, taking turns to hold the rope ends. When the little girl’s turn comes to do so, she notices the name, painted on the handle.

It’s her name, but also happens to be that of one of the foxes; and, the little creature has assumed it now belongs to her because of a wish she’d made.
Does the little fox’s wish come true: what does the little girl decide to do?
A wonderful, slightly whimsical tale of empathy, altruism and kindness, and a delightful portrayal of the way young children so easily slip between fantasy and reality, told with sensitivity that is captured equally in Sakai’s glowing illustrations and Aman’s words, which in their direct simplicity, echo the voice of a child. Such exquisite observation.

I’ve signed the charter 

How to Find Gold

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How to Find Gold
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books
Viviane Schwarz has definitely struck gold with her latest offering. It stars a pair of adorable characters, Anna, a small girl with a wonderfully fertile imagination, and her pal Crocodile – an all round down-to-earth good guy – who acts as a kind of steadying influence in the relationship, proffering such wise words as “That would be dangerous and difficult,” to Anna’s opening suggestion, “LET’S FIND GOLD,”. Indeed it’s the quality of the deadpan exchanges between the two, as much as the quest itself that make this book such a winner.
Once the plans have been made, maps duly drawn …

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and location possibilities weighed up …

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the next consideration is transport: that one is easily dealt with …

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and the adventure is then truly under way
There follows another priceless exchange: “Where are the ship-sinking mountains?” Anna asked. “Where are the monsters?”
Underwater, “ said Crocodile.
How about holes?”
They are sunk with the ship,” said Crocodile.
Ah,” said Anna. “Finding gold is difficult.”
Very,” said Crocodile.
Not dangerous though,” said Anna.
Ha!” said Crocodile. “How about over there, where the sea is boiling and the clouds are like a tower and the fish are in the air?
A great storm!” said Anna. “There will be gold!
Hold on tight,” said Crocodile.
Anna is duly rewarded for her confidence. They do find gold, at the bottom of the deepest, darkest ocean imaginable …

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and what do they do with the spoils? Telling would ruin the wonderful finale which rounds this off in stupendous style, in a superb demonstration of what early years educators, parents of many young children (and this book’s creator) know: it’s the process, not the product that is most important in an undertaking such as this.
Like all good picture books, this one leaves readers with possibilities to entertain: “Is Crocodile ‘real’ or an imaginary friend?” being one. Your young audiences will doubtless come up with others.
The author provided further episodes to her wonderful There Are Cats In This Book. If anything calls for a follow up (or two), this brilliant book assuredly does.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

Is there a dog in this book?

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Is there a dog in this book?
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books
Actually this book is mainly about cats –three of them: Moonpie – the sleek one, Andre – the decidedly rotund one and Tiny – well that’s obvious. Yes, they are back in their third ‘Cats book. So, what’s all this about a dog then? Seemingly this particular book has a visitor or rather an intruder; consternation all round and a plea for help to us, the readers. Time to find a better hiding place moggies. But the piano’s not satisfactory (some idiot opened it), nor the wardrobe (ditto)

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so what about that suitcase? ‘Sniff sniff’ Looks like you’ve been discovered guys.
Then comes the revelation: rather than being snappy and scary, the canine intruder seems friendly, soft and oh so strokeable, certainly to those with a feline touch. Human hands? Well, that’s another story or rather – part of this one …
Absolutely irresistible! – the cover, the book and the characters both feline and canine (oh yes that one is purple and something of a visual thinker).

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Once again this is totally interactive and involving – flaps, moggy dialogue directed straight to the reader, (and even without that, those gestures and facial expressions speak volumes) surprises galore and abundant humour both verbal and visual.
This one will be read to death – literally.
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Animals and a Vegetable



Dolci and her mum enjoy the story together

Sean Taylor and Sally Anne Garland
Simon and Schuster pbk
Mouse’s house is perfect – well almost. There’s just a slight slope to one of the windows. Easily fixed, thinks Mouse but not so; he can’t reach up far enough. “FIDDLESTICKS!” Surely big, strong Bear can help though – oops!


One broken window… “FIDDLESTICKS and RATS!” But Squirrel is an ace climber and woodworker … Oh no! …With flood water to contend with, filthy footprints all over the kitchen wall (courtesy of Otter), a gaping hole in the roof – Moose’s offering, Mouse’s house is pretty near wrecked.


Time to bale out; off goes a distraught Mouse.
Meanwhile as the day progresses those destroyers have become creators and by sundown, when our little friend decides to return to his wreck of a home, he’s in for a big surprise.


Those pals of yours have done an amazing job, just keep your paws off that door, little Mouse,
The author says he was inspired to write this amusing story when listening to Flanders and Swann’s The Gas Man Cometh. The slightly understated telling certainly works well and the built-in repetition and cumulative nature of Mouse’s expletives delight young listeners. So too do Sally Anne Garland’s cute illustrations executed in muted shades of blues, greens, browns, pinks and greys; and the whole thing is printed on high quality paper – an added bonus.
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A Day with the Animal Mechanics
Sharon Rentta
Alison Green Books pbk
Young Dylan Basset’s big day has arrived. He’s off to help his Dad at the garage he owns. When he arrives he sees the mechanics already hard at work; there’s so much to learn,


things like how to use the car wash. So why is it that the hot afternoon is so quiet – not a single customer. Then… time to get moving Animal mechanics; grab the spare tyres, spanners, a snack and off you go. What a jam they discover on the coast road, all because a huge lorry up front has shed its load of boxes. It’s not only the cars that are overheating the mechanics find, so it’s fortunate that young Dylan decides to investigate the contents of the spilt cargo …


Guess who gets the vote for best mechanic that day. Now you’ve all earned a refreshing seaside dip too…
Rich in detail, with plenty to amuse, explore and absorb, this latest episode with the Animal work force is sure to please young audiences and those who share the book with them.
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Cheese Belongs To You
Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books pbk
Starting once again with a simple scenario, the creator of the brilliant There are Cats in this Book and There are No Cats in this Book has co-created a hilarious, totally brilliant, crazy story concerning the ownership of cheese, or rather, one particular, holey chunk of the stuff. Rat Law has it that, if any rat has the cheese, that rat is the owner of same –


unless that is, a bigger, quicker, stronger, scarier, hairier or even a dirty rat (especially a gang boss), wants it. Which rodent eventually gets to partake of that cheese though?


All manner of rats, and potentially extremely dodgy situations have been entertained with verve and vigour in reds and greys (the cheese though is a glowing yellowy orange) and through co-creator Alexis Deacon’s wonderfully clever, cumulative text.
There is so much to explore and discuss herein that I guarantee sharing it with a class of 4s to 7s will keep everyone engaged for ages; begin with the cover and cheesy endpapers and just FOLLOW THAT CHEESE! With its cleverly inbuilt repetition, this book is perfect for learner readers too.
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Catch that Crocodile!
Anushka Ravishankar and Pulak Biswas
Tara Books pbk
Herein, it takes a young fish-seller, Meena to solve the problem of how to deal with the jaw-snapping reptile that Falguni Fruit-seller discovers in a ditch. And, what’s more she does so in an entirely non-violent manner


(luring it back to the river with a trail of her wares). That of course is after the likes of Probin Policeman, Doctor Dutta and wrestler Bhayanak Singh have all attempted to do their worst to the croc and definitely come off second best.


With its clever, eye-catching typography, folk-style illustrations that look almost like woodcuts and catchy rhyme, this is good fun to read aloud with small groups of children who will need to be able to look closely at the pictures to get the most from the story.
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Sue Hendra
Simon and Schuster pbk
Whoever heard of a superhero spud? I certainly hadn’t prior to seeing Sue Hendra’s latest offering. Said superspud is hot on the trail of one dastardly pea that has got loose from the freezer and caused all kinds of suffering among the inhabitants of the vegetable section of the supermarket.


Supertato’s search sends him creeping through the cakes, the cheese and the cans but just as he’s about to grab his prey, he finds himself plunging into the icy depths of the freezer above which the pea lurks wielding a spud masher.


Is our superhero destined to become mere mash? Not quite but it’s a pretty close call.
Hmm! What’s that green spherical object in the jelly?
Totally crazy but there’s something rather appealing about a spud with superpowers careering around a supermarket at night.
The bright, almost brash colours of the produce and their surroundings make for suitably eye-catching scenes and the playful language adds spice to this tongue-in-cheek drama.
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