Some Dinosaurs are Small

Some Dinosaurs are Small
Charlotte Voake
Walker Books

Can you EVER have too many dinosaur books? Definitely not if one of them is this, the latest offering from Charlotte Voake.

Charlotte weaves opposites – big/small, fast/slow, flat/pointy, (as well as showing both carnivorous and herbivorous creatures), into an exciting and amusing picture book story where the action and feelings are shown in the art, while the words are pretty much descriptive: it’s the amalgam of the two that makes this book such a tasty offering.

It begins with one very small dinosaur foraging for fruit which goes into a basket.

Lurking in the background are some BIG, sharp-clawed, pointy toothed dinosaurs with their eyes on a tasty snack or two. And seemingly these speedy movers are never satisfied …

While the confrontational drama is taking place between the marauders and one ENORMOUS dino.

little humans will be relieved to see the little dinosaur has found a safe place to withdraw from the action before embarking on some further foraging, which is shown on the final endpapers.

Terrific fun with thrills aplenty, early years audiences will find this irresistible and, like those big hungry dinosaurs, are bound to demand second or even third helpings …

Nop

Nop
Caroline Mageri
Walker Books

Meet Nop resident of Oddmint’s Dumporium, a dusty place piled high with assorted goods all in need of some mending, fixing or fancyfi-ing by those that work by candle light.

When it comes to Nop though, nothing, be it button, ribbon, or spangle quite fits the bill. Seemingly the bear is doomed to remain on the unwanted shelf instead of being placed in a splendidly crinkly paper bag and carried away in the arms of a happy customer.

But then he spies something red on the floor just waiting to be transformed into an exciting adornment and thus embellished with same, an idea floats into his mind.

Come morning, stitch by stitch

the idea becomes the means to start an exciting adventure in the big wide world where, who knows, perhaps a new friendship awaits.

Spendidly whimsical, Caroline Mageri’s Nop with its themes of hope, enterprise and new beginnings is an uplifting, lyrically written delight.

Board Book Delights

Both Walker Books and Nosy Crow publish smashing board books – here are some of the latest:

Little Baby’s Busy Day
Little Baby’s Playtime

Nick Sharratt and Sally Symes
Walker Books

These ‘Finger Wiggle Books’ are full of adorable babies doing everyday things, the action being supplied by inserting a finger through the two die-cut holes that go from cover to cover in each book.

Busy Day portrays wake up time, breakfast, looking smart ready to go out, shopping, having a wee, inviting a tummy tickle, a sudsy bathtime and finally, arms extended for a bedtime cuddle. Nick Sharratt supplies the bright jolly visuals in his unmistakeable bubbly style and Sally Symes has created the brief rhyming ‘One little baby … Wiggle wiggle … ‘ narrative.

Little Baby’s Playtime opens with travelling in a sling, then moves to a playground swing, a wizz down a ‘slippery slide’, a tricycle ride, a dig in a sandpit, a game of peek-a-boo, excitement at the sight of a butterfly and finishes with a farewell wave.

Terrific for sharing; and with their patterned text and inviting scenes, these two spell out loud and clear to tinies that all important ‘books are fun’ message.

If You’re Happy and You Know It!
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

This addition to the ever -popular ‘Sing along with me!’ series is another established nursery favourite. Here the main characters are bears with other creatures playing the bit parts. We first see the bears cooking together, after which they go out shopping together before returning home. Then small bear then goes out to meet some friends.

As they sing along, little ones can use their fingers to make the small bear clap, stamp, nod and on the final spread, reveal his friends and everyone can join in with the “we are” finale.

There’s a bar code to scan which will provide a version of the song to sing along to. With its cute illustrations, this will become a favourite in the series, I suspect.

Too Small Tola

Too Small Tola
Akinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Walker Books

Small in stature young Tola may be but she’s one determined little girl – a mighty force to be reckoned with. Tola lives with her older, very clever sister Moji, her fleet of foot brother Dapo and her very bossy Grandmummy in a flat in Lagos. There are three stories in this, the first of a new series and we meet not only these family members, but in addition encounter many other residents of the city.

The first episode sees Tola accompanying Grandmummy on a trip to the market. During their journey they find themselves taking on shopping for friends and neighbours in addition to their own, and Tola helps Grandmummy ensure the market vendors don’t cheat her.

In Small but Mighty Tola and Moji cope with no electricity and no water. They go to the nearby pump where Tola and some of the local ladies demonstrate woman power to the stroppy Ododi Brothers.

Easter and Eid are both fast approaching in the final story. It’s a busy time especially for tailor Mr Abdul as everybody wants to celebrate with new clothes. But then the tailor is knocked off his bicycle while out and about collecting measurements; his leg is broken, but not his sewing machine. Can Tola, with her excellent measuring skills, come to his aid so that all his customers are satisfied.

As well as giving an insight into city life in Lagos, Nigeria, these stories are bursting with love for family and friends, warmth and affection for the local community. With delightful illustrations (love the cover art) by Onyinye Iwu on every spread, this is a smashing chapter book for newly confident readers.

Beware of the Crocodile

Beware of the Crocodile
Martin Jenkins and Satoshi Kitamura
Walker Books

You can always rely on Martin Jenkins to provide information in a thoroughly enjoyable manner and here his topic is those jaw snapping crocs, which, as he tells readers on the opening spread are ‘really scary’ (the big ones). … ‘They’ve got an awful lot of … teeth.’

With wry, rather understated humour he decides to omit the gruesome details and goes on to talk about how they capture their prey: ‘ Let’s just say there’s a lot of twirling and thrashing, then things go a bit quiet.’ I was astonished to learn that crocodiles are able to go for weeks without eating after a large meal.

The author’s other main focus is crocodiles’ parenting skills; these you may be surprised to learn are pretty good – at least when applied to the mothers.

Not an easy task since one large female can lay up to 90 eggs; imagine having to guard so many  newly hatched babies once they all emerge.

As for the father crocodiles, I will leave you to imagine what they might do should they spot a tasty-looking meal in their vicinity, which means not all the baby crocodiles survive and thrive to reach their full 2m. in eight years time.

As fun and informative as the narrative is, Kitamura’s watery scenes are equally terrific emphasising all the right parts. He reverts to his more zany mode in the final ‘About Crocodiles’ illustration wherein a suited croc. sits perusing a menu (make sure you read it) at a dining table.

All in all, a splendid amalgam of education and entertainment for youngsters; and most definitely one to chomp on and relish.

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.

Love From Alfie McPoonst, The Best Dog Ever

Love From Alfie McPoonst, The Best Dog Ever
Dawn McNiff and Patricia Metola
Walker Books

This is a totally adorable book despite the sadness of its themes – coping with death and finding a way to express loss. The death is of the beloved pet dog Alfie, now in Dog Heaven.

From there, on ‘The Nicest Cloud’ to be precise, he sends little Izzy letters in the post. This location so he says is ‘BRILLIANT’ – with lots of parks, a surfeit of sticks and dog treats by the million. Moreover scaring wolves and chasing postmen are allowed; there’s a distinct lack of bullying moggies, no need for baths and Alfie can show off his special trick to a highly appreciative, exclusively canine, audience. He can even indulge his taste for cowpats.

Of course Alfie misses all the tickles and huggles from his little human but there are compensatory snuggles with his ‘dog-mum’.

When Izzy reads of the dog fluff Alfie has left behind, she collects it up and puts it into a special ‘I’ll never forget you’ locket, and writes to tell him about it too.

In this way, the little child is helped to grieve and come to terms with her loss.

The author, Dawn McNiff was a bereavement counsellor before becoming a writer and this thoughtfully created story is a real heartstrings tugger that will help young children through the grieving process.

Equally moving are Patricia Metola’s slightly quirky illustrations that show both the human world and Dog Heaven.