Follow Me, Flo!

Follow Me, Flo!
Jarvis
Walker Books

Anything but a follower of the rules, young ducky Flo prefers to do things in her own divergent way and so it is when she and Daddy Duck set out to pay a visit to Auntie Jenna’s new nest.

Daddy lays down some ground rules from the start – ‘FOLLOW ME all the way. No chasing or hiding’ and then off they go with Daddy inventing a song to help keep his little one on the straight and narrow: “We’re off to somewhere new./ So stick to me like glue.// FOLLOW ME, FLO!/ Come on, let’s go!/ We’re sure to be there soon.// Follow me UP… . // Follow me DOWN… . / Look straight ahead and NOT AROUND!”

Inevitably it isn’t long before Flo begins to feel this song isn’t right for her.

Instead she invents her own much more exciting version and so pleased with same does she become that she fails to realise that she’s strayed right into the path of a certain Roxy Fox with other things on her mind than singing.

Fortunately however, Jarvis’ ducky ditty takes an unexpected turn for Flo remembers in the nick of time, the words of her Daddy’s song and is back on the right track, even managing to earn some praise from her pa and all ends happily.

It’s all in the eyes with Jarvis’ delectable images of young Flo’s recalcitrant romp that young humans will relish, especially those with a streak of rebellion, and that’s pretty much all of them; they might even learn an important lesson along the way too.

Adult sharers will love to give voice to this rollicking read aloud with its liberal sprinkling of accompanying minibeasts adding to the delights.

Mr Brown’s Bad Day / Bunnies on the Bus

Mr Brown’s Bad Day
Lou Peacock and Alison Friend
Nosy Crow

Mr Brown is a Very Important Businessman with a Very  Important Briefcase that he takes to his Very Important Office where he spends his time signing Very Important Letters and attending Very Important Meetings.

Every lunchtime clutching his Very Important Briefcase he leaves his office to eat his lunch in the park.

One Tuesday however, a baby elephant snatches the briefcase while Mr B is busy thinking important thoughts.

There follows a frantic chase on foot and by tricycle as said briefcase is passed relay style onto the back of an ice-cream trolley and then in the possession of a group of children, onto the fairground’s big wheel, and the bus back through the town to school.

Mr Brown finally catches up with it when the bus stops to disgorge the passengers.

Eventually with darkness falling it’s a very weary tiger that heads home clutching his briefcase. Once there he checks to make sure the contents are safe before heading up to bed for a well-earned rest and some more ‘Very Important Business’ …

But what was inside that briefcase? Now that would be telling and I’m no story spoiler.

Great fun with a wonderful final surprise revelation. Alison Friend’s illustrations are a treat too with plenty of detail and action to engage your little ones as they listen to Lou Peacock’s tongue-in-cheek tale.

Bunnies on the Bus
Philip Ardagh and Ben Mantle
Walker Books

TOOT! TOOT HONK! HONK! Madness and mayhem abound as the bunnies take to the bus one summer’s day in Sunny Town, so the rest of us drivers and pedestrians had better steer well clear as the bunny driver has clearly gone rogue, careering past the bus stops narrowly avoiding the other animals going about their daily business.

The bunnies meanwhile are having a ball aboard FLUFF 1, cavorting down the aisle; there’s even one up on the roof.
Where is this vehicle bound for you may well be wondering as it suddenly leaves the road completely.

No matter, for at the next stop, those bunny passengers instantly set their sights on another mode of transport as they make their exit and err … where one journey ends another begins so to speak …

Anarchic fun for your bouncy little ones created by the terrific Ardagh/ Mantle team whose combination of energetic rhyme (Philip) and cracking illustrations jam-packed with gigglesome details (Ben) is perfect cheering up material.

The Stars Just Up the Street

The Stars Just Up the Street
Sue Soltis and Christine Davenier
Walker Books

Mabel’s grandpa loves to tell stories of the thousands of stars in the night sky where he grew up and this draws in his granddaughter Mabel who loves to look at the five stars she can see through her bedroom window and the nineteen visible from her back garden’s ‘narrow patch of sky’.

When Grandpa and Mabel go walking in the town looking for the myriad of stars he saw in his youth, the plethora of street lights and houselights make it impossible.

What can she do about the lack of the real darkness that would allow the stars to become visible?

Now Mabel has a mission: to convince other people to turn off the lights. First she goes to her neighbours who having done as requested are amazed at the number of stars now visible – around two hundred. “Look, the Big Dipper!” cries one in surprise.

More people agree to switch off but to get the street lights turned out, Mabel must appeal to the town’s mayor. This, with dogged persistence and a reminder that everyone was a starry-eyed, star watching child once upon a time, she eventually does.

The story concludes with a community celebration with everybody gathering up on the hill to view the wonders of the night-time sky, now filled with stars,

an event that seems destined to become an annual new moon tradition with  picnics and telescopes.

Sue Soltis’ beautifully told, inspiring story of the love between Grandpa and grandchild, of determination, community and controlling light pollution, will appeal to urban star-gazers especially, as well as one hopes encouraging youngsters to take up the challenge and campaign for what they believe is right and to stand against those things which are detrimental to our world. Christine Davenier’s ink-wash illustrations capture both the beauty of the night sky liberally sprinkled with stars, and the young girl protagonist’s heartfelt determination.

Would that it were so relatively easy: our towns and cities at night are ablaze with unnecessary artificial lights, almost wherever one looks: every town, every city needs a Mabel.

Midge & Mo / Judy Moody Super Book Whiz

Midge & Mo
Lara Williamson & Becky Cameron
Little Tiger

Starting at a new school is almost always a bit scary and many children go through those ‘I want things to be how they were before we moved’ feelings. It’s certainly the case for Midge in this latest story in the Stripes series of full colour fiction for new solo readers.

Midge’s parents have separated and Midge is faced with having to start at a new school with all the challenges that presents. He really doesn’t want to embrace the change, instead he wants his old school and friends, and his parents together.

On his first day he receives a warm welcome from teacher, Mr Lupin who asks Mo to be Midge’s buddy. This proves to be a challenging role, for no matter how hard she tries, Midge remains sad and silent.

At the end of the day, Mr Lupin encourages her to keep on trying.

Back at home that night, Mo has an idea. She reaches for the snow globe her mum and dad gave her when she was a newbie at school and sits down with her parents whose words of wisdom inspire her to create a special something for Midge.

At school the following morning, she tries again with Midge and her actions precipitate a change in him: little by little, the clouds begin to shift …

Told and illustrated with obvious empathy, Lara’s words and Becky’s illustrations express so well, the emotional turmoil of Midge. It’s a lovely warm-hearted story for young just-independent readers as well as providing an ideal opportunity to explore the feelings associated with changing schools and/or a parental separation.

Judy Moody Super Book Whiz
Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Walker Books

My goodness, I hadn’t realised just how many Judy Moody books there now are.

Although there is a competition in this story regarding factual recall of things in stories and I’m somewhat uncomfortable with that, books and reading rule and that must be a good thing.

Judy Moody and her brother Stink are both on their school bookworm team (along with Frank and Judy’s erstwhile arch nemesis Jessica, Frank and Sophie). They have to read all the books on the list in order to beat the team from a school in the nearby town. There’s money for the school library as a prize and their much-loved teacher, Mr Todd is asking the questions, but can team Virginia Dare Bookworms out-perform The Fake-Moustache Defenders with their star, ‘Mighty Fantasky, Fourth grader’.

In order to be in with a chance the Bookworms will need to read at every possible opportunity – on the bus, in karate class, at the dining table, sick in bed, even.

Judy tries speed-reading while Stink fashions a cape using sticky post-it notes both of which are not quite the answer.

However, enthusiasm for reading never wanes in this exciting bookish battle, (all titles read are listed after the story), and let’s just say that it’s a win for books, for hard work and for determination.

I’ll leave you to decide to whom that applies and suggest you get a copy of the book for your classroom or a bookish young reader. Either way the final list of books, as well as the story, with its liberal scattering of funky Peter H. Reynolds illustrations, provide literary inspiration and enjoyment.

Agents of the Wild Operation Honeyhunt

Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt
Jennifer Bell, illustrated by Alice Lickens
Walker Books

Returning home one day, 8 year old Agnes Gamble, daughter of the sadly no longer alive, renowned botanists Ranulph and Azalea, discovers a creature clad in a safari uniform awaiting her in her bedroom. He informs Agnes that he’s an elephant shrew (species Rhynchocyon petersi) , a field agent for SPEARS (the Society for the Protection of Endangered and Awesomely Rare Species). He gives her a pair of knee pads covered in a sticky green goo (slug mucus) and says she’s to accompany him on a mission. He’s even brought a replacement chimp trained to mimic her so that her Uncle Douglas won’t notice her absence.

The recruiter who’s also known as Attenborough or Attie for short, says that not only did her erstwhile parents know of SPEARS but that they too were field agents for the society. This persuades Agnes to go along with Attie who leads the girl up inside a hidden passage to where eventually they board the SPEARS dragoncopter that takes them to HQ to meet the organisation’s Commander, a turkey.

He tells Agnes that she’s been scouted and if after training, she’s deemed ready, she’ll be sent on a mission with a view to becoming a permanent agent.

Needless to say the training is pretty rigorous

but Agnes scores well and along with Attie, is assigned to Operation Honeyhunt tasked with rescuing a young bee left behind during a hive relocation to a protected sanctuary the previous week. Said bee is at even greater risk due to the fact that the dastardly Axel Jabheart has been sighted in the Atlantic Forest, the place where the bee was left.

Eventually they locate the apis in the rainforest.

He then informs the agents that he’s called Elton and that he’s choreographer in chief of the hive colony. Agnes amasses a wealth of additional information about Elton but is she up to the difficult rescue task, after which she’ll become a full SPEARS agent?

With its exciting mix of adventure and wildlife conservation, Jennifer Bell has created a terrific story for those around Agnes’ own age. Alice Lickens’ wonderfully offbeat illustrations sprinkled throughout the book, break up the text; and at the end of the story are several pages providing facts about the endangered wildlife of the Atlantic Forest in which the mission is set, as well as information on how readers can get involved.

I look forward to reading more of young Agnes and her adventures.

Where’s Baby?

Where’s Baby?
Anne Hunter
Walker Books

In this delightfully playful book whose story really begins on the front endpapers, Papa Fox searches for his little one. “Have you seen Baby, Mama Fox?” he asks on the first page and the response, “Why, Baby must be somewhere, Papa Fox” leads the male parent off, walking stick in paw, searching high and low in the countryside – up in the tree, inside a log, over the hill, down a hole, under the water and around the bend.

In each location he comes upon a decidedly un-foxy animal. Some respond politely to his question “ Ba-by! Are you … up in the tree?” for instance …

Whereas others such as a grumpy skunk with its “I am inside the log, but I am not your baby. Go away!” are rather rude and on occasion Papa Fox gets the shock of his life.

Totally at a loss, back goes Papa Fox empty pawed; and by this time if your audience hasn’t already yelled out, “Behind you” at the top of their voices they certainly will when he reaches Mama Fox again. Once reunited, it’s down to Baby to utter a final throwaway line …

Inevitably this will lead to cries of ‘Read it again” and you – like that Papa Fox, will happily oblige.

There’s so much to love about this hide-and-seek book: the dramatic irony of the whole tale; the entirely speech bubble text with its question and answer format; Anne Hunter’s superb, finely drawn pen and pencil, cross-hatched illustrations with that limited colour palette that grace every spread, the fact that youngsters will perceive that Mama Fox is playing along with her offspring and the unobtrusive lesson in prepositions.

Simple literary entertainment of the first order, methinks.

Just In Case You Want To Fly / Read to Your Toddler Every Day

Just In Case You Want To Fly
Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson
Walker Books

All parents and carers want to do their best to ensure that their little ones have what they need in any eventuality and so it is here in author Julie Fogliano and illustrator Christian Robinson’s second collaboration.

It begins ‘just in case you want to fly, here’s some wind / and here’s the sky’ going on in rhythmic rhyme to provide such uplifting words about potential needs as ‘here’s a cherry if you need a snack/ and if you get itchy / here’s a scratch on the back’

as readers and participants move through the day perhaps pausing and ‘just in case you want to sing / here’s a la la la’ and to pick up a book or two …

getting ever closer to bedtime,

while in the bedroom there awaits ‘a pillow, a song and a tissue’. Before that though come a warm bath and  a honey-sweetened drink.

Christian Robinson’s final collage and paint, bedtime tuck-in spread shows the young child safely snuggled beneath a cover patterned with most of the items mentioned in the text.

With its reassuring messages that no matter where you journey, or what you try to do, something or somebody will be there for you, this is a tale to share with youngsters at bedtime or any other time of the day,

Also just right for sharing with that same young audience is:

Read to Your Toddler Every Day
Lucy Brownridge and Chloe Giordano
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Following on from their nursery rhyme book Read to Your Baby Every Day, the same team have collaborated on a collection of twenty folk and fairy tales and fable retellings from around the world – from Scandinavia to Syria

and Cambodia to China to read to slightly older children.

Once again Chloe Giordano has created gorgeous hand-embroidered illustrations and there’s at least one for every story. You’ll find animals of all kinds, shapes and sizes including mice and elephants from India,

Anansi the spider and a turtle from the Caribbean, as well as humans such as the couple whose snow girl came to life in the Russian “Snowflake, the Snow Child’, and the Stonecutter named Haru from Japan.

Each of Lucy Brownridge’s retellings is just the right length for bedtime reading providing an enriching way to end the day with your little one (s).