I Am Not A Label

I Am Not A Label
Cerrie Burnell & Lauren Baldo
Wide Eyed Editions

‘Everyone deserves to see someone like them in a story or achieving something great.’ So says the author of this book, actor, author and erstwhile CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell.

In short biographical accounts, she highlights the diverse achievements of 34 people from different parts of the world and from present and past times (covering a time span of some 250 years) who have all defied the odds and achieved great things despite having a disability or mental health issue of some kind.

Her choice in terms of accomplishment is wide ranging and includes artists, authors, activists, performers, scientists and mathematicians, people in fashion, and more. Some such as Beethoven, Matisse, Helen Keller, Frida Kahlo, Stephen Hawkins, Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga will probably be familiar names to many readers.

Others may be unfamiliar, such as mathematician John Nash who had a challenging mental health condition,

Wanda Dîaz-Merced the astronomer who became blind due to diabetic retinopathy and went on to develop sonification – a way of turning visual information into sound pictures

and Arunima Sinha, an international volleyball player who after being attacked, thrown from a moving train and losing a leg as a result, took up mountaineering and became the first female amputee to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

Every one of the stories is enormously inspiring demonstrating that if you have a passion, self-belief, are absolutely determined and prepared to work hard then you can achieve amazing things.

Almost all of those included are allocated a double spread with a full-page portrait by Lauren Baldo, who manages to capture both the determination and jubilation in every one of her subjects. There are also three spreads headed Mental Health, Paralympic Stars

and Hidden Disabilities showcasing several people.

A powerful, uplifting and important book that deserves to be widely read and should be in every primary classroom collection.

Stars Before Bedtime / What’s in Your Mind Today?

Stars Before Bedtime
Claire Grace & Dr Jessamy Hibberd, illustrated by Hannah Tolson
Wide Eyed Editions

As the authors of this book, Claire Grace a writer/editor and clinical psychologist and writer Dr Jessamy Hibberd remind us in their introduction, it’s not always easy to fall asleep in our world of constant stimulation and establishing a bedtime routine can help enormously.

To that end they have created a combination of bedtime story, and mind and body-calming exercises to help youngsters wind down as they bid ‘goodbye to the wriggles and the fidgets’ before dropping off into peaceful slumbers.

Brief stories about the constellations of the night sky,

inspired by mythology, together with instructions for mindfulness exercises related to the particular story form the basic elements; those and Hannah Tolson’s surrounding visuals created with a restful colour palette, which contain a mix of the starry night sky with symbolic representation of the constellations

and homely images of the related physical exercises in a detailed bedroom setting. (An appropriately coloured lavender crescent moon symbol is used to indicate the relevant text for each exercise.)

Among the activities included are yoga style poses, stretches, guided visualisations and conscious breathing.

Pages for grown-ups at the front and back offer ‘how to’ suggestions as well as ways you might use the book. (Each double spread can stand alone if you don’t want to read the entire book, so for instance you could choose to share the story of Draco the dragon and the accompanying stretching snakelike exercise and breathing.)

Wearing my teacher and yoga teacher specialising in yoga with children hats, I recommend giving this book a go. It should pay dividends if you persevere. Try out the different strategies suggested so that you establish that much desired, peaceful routine mentioned at the outset.

More mindfulness for little ones in:

What’s in Your Mind Today?
Louise Bladen and Angela Perrini
Little Steps Publishing

There’s always a way to let go all our thoughts no matter what we have in our minds, as this gentle book shows and tells using a variety of children and their thoughts.

By focussing on the simple breathing exercises in Louise Bladen’s calming verses, and Angela Perrini’s attractive, quirky illustrations of the mentioned girls and boys,

both children and adults can quell their busy minds and find a place of tranquillity.

Everybody Counts

 

Everybody Counts
Kristin Roskifte (translated by Siän Mackie)
Wide Eyed Editions

This immersive book subtitled ‘A counting story from 0 to 7.5 billion’ is the 2019 winner of the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize. It’s easy to see why. It’s like no other counting book, that’s for sure and what is counted is people, people from 0 (no one) to 7.5 billion – the entire world.

The people are members of groups and many belong to two or more groups and so stories evolve around the characters, starting with a boy and his family making a total of 5.

You can follow these characters through the book, seeing how their various life stories intersect and diverge.

The narrator makes brief comments about people in their settings, for example in the classroom scene, of the 20 children ‘One of them is thinking about all the people who’ve lived before us. One of them has lost the class teddy bear. One of them is dreading football training. One of them will become prime minister.’

However, much is left unsaid so there are sufficient gaps for readers to fill and likely fill differently, on each reading.

Dive in, get lost in the pages, stop; study each one thoughtfully, and move on; eventually you’ll have met 2768 people. Then perhaps move back; the ‘spotting section’ at the end will certainly encourage you to do that.

Most importantly though, whatever other interpretations readers make, the indisputable messages that emerge are, that we are all part of one enormous, interconnected world group – the human race – and that each one of us has our own unique story, for as the title says, Everybody Counts.

Just imagine how many philosophy for children sessions might evolve if you start exploring this ingenious, visual festival of a book in the classroom.

Poems Aloud

Poems Aloud
Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett
Wide Eyed Editions

Joseph Coelho is a performance poet so it’s no surprise that the nineteen poems in this book are first and foremost, intended to be read aloud or performed. Through so doing children can have lots of fun and discover the pure pleasure of spoken words.

There are poems for a range of moods and for each one, Joseph provides a helpful introductory line or so about reading it out loud.

There are some short playful alliterative Tongue Twisters to start with, including the sibilant The Slime Takeover that children will definitely delight in:
‘Slipping, shimmering, stinking slime, / sloppy cerise or shades of scarlet sublime. / It sticks and sucks and spits and spools, snaking slime slumping several school walls./ The slime swells and stretches, and starts to sprout, … ‘

They’ll also relish The Chilly Chilli with its homophones. Here’s the second verse telling how it feels since being ‘shipped to store’:
‘A little chilly chilli / feeling cold and in a knot. / Not a happy, chilly chilli. / In fact, this chilli feels quite ill / like it’s caught the flu. / It flew all this way / packed in a plane / to add heat to otherwise plain food.’
It sounds as though the poet had as much fun composing this as youngsters will when they read it, emphasising the bold words as he suggests.

As I write today the following are my favourites  (although they might well be different on another day): This Bear with its figurative language such as is used in the opening verse:
‘This lumbering bear is old / This lumbering bumbling bear / has shuffled over rugged imagined mountains. / Urged his bulk, slow and strong. / Slow as geography. / Strong as tree growth / through the forests of his mind.’
What a wonderful picture that paints in the reader’s mind even without the splendid illustration.

I love too the short Animals offerings that include Lion: ‘I am meat-licker, / bone-cruncher, / big–meower. / I cat walk with pride. / My mane is a hairdo of envy. / My roar is a rumble of mountains. / My claws, a savannah of pain.‘ Superb!

Next is the fantastically fanciful Something Wondrous, the first line of which urges:
‘Peer from your window in the deep of night.’ You might spy these, for its second verse goes thus:
‘A unicorn nibbles the gold leaf tree, / hobgoblins fist-fight in every flower. Mermaids flop from a luminescing sea. / Earth giants show-off their hidden powers.’ Joseph’s  power with poem creating is certainly not hidden and I really like the use of silhouettes in Daniel Grey-Barnett’s illustration.

The final one of today’s favourites conjures up a place whose sights, sounds and smells I’m familiar with. Even if you’ve never been On the Streets of New Delhi this poem will make readers feel that they’re experiencing the place. Here’s how it begins:
‘On the streets of New Delhi / a small brown dog yawns. / The morning light is golden / on the new streets of barking New Delhi.’
It concludes, thanks to the cumulative nature of the last line of each verse: ‘on the new streets of barking, selling, thrumming, chuckling New Delhi.’
Get hold of this cracking book to discover what causes the thrumming and chuckling referred to. Or you could cheat and look carefully at the action-capturing illustration  below;

but buy the book anyway – it’s a smasher!

Search-and-Find A Number of Numbers

Search-and-Find A Number of Numbers
AJ Wood, Mike Jolley and Allan Sanders
Wide Eyed Editions

What at first glance appears a relatively simple search-and-find counting book rapidly becomes a totally immersive experience in the hands of Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Allan Sanders.
Once you dive into the pages comprising their sequence of zany spreads with scenes as diverse as a monocyclist, marine life, a castle scene, and canines galore – both adult and pups, you’ll find it hard to stop before the end.

This playful offering will surely have a wide age appeal – pre-schoolers for instance will relish the number 3 pages whereon nursery favourites the ‘3 blind mice,’ rhyme, the 3 bears, the 3 billy-goats gruff and the 3 little pigs all put in an appearance along with a host of other items in 3s, to locate.

Few of any age will be able to resist the delicious picnic spread out along the banks of a meandering river (number 10,) or the 19 robot with all manner of inappropriate items left inside by its absent-minded boffin constructor.

Another of my favourite spreads is 5 with its splendidly embroidered woolly glove – perfect to wear in chilly weather.

By the time anyone reaches the 100 challenge – a building site – their counting fingers will likely be all a-tingle and their eyes agog; and their visual skills will most definitely have been honed considerably, thanks to every one of Allan Sanders splendidly eccentric scenes. But there’s still one final challenge …

Brilliantly playful and playfully brilliant – don’t miss it!

A Clutch of Activity and Craft Books

Scratch and Learn: Space
illustrated by Victoria Fernández
Scratch and Learn: Animals
illustrated by Natasha Durley
Wide Eyed Editions

These are new additions to the series, both of which have seven interactive spreads and an attached stylus for young readers to do the scratching.

Each spread explores a different theme and in the Space title, these start with the Big Bang and the scratching reveals 10 galaxies. Then come a look at the solar system, the Moon, ‘Spacecraft’, which has the Space Shuttle as a featured image, a peep at life on board the International Space Station, an account of the life cycle of a star, and finally, a constellation map.

Spencer investigating the map

There are 10 ‘scratch and discover’ shapes to investigate with the stylus on every spread as well as a lead-in, easy to understand, factual paragraph (or two), clearly labelled objects and an additional ‘fact’ most in speech bubble form, for example ‘The light from the closest star still takes 4 years to reach us.’

The Animals featured in the second book come from different habitats around the world and as in the previous title, Lucy Brownridge supplies the succinct text.

Ten animals have ‘hidden’ themselves in each of Natasha Durley’s alluringly illustrated locations: the Amazon rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Sundarbans Mangrove forest, (between India and Bangladesh), the grasslands of the African Savannah, a coniferous forest of northern Canada, the arid Gobi Desert and Antarctica.

Both titles are appealing early interactive books that can be brought out anywhere especially on a journey or a rainy day.

The Mermaid Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Publications

Prolific craft book creators, Laura and Tia have added a new title to their series, this time with a mermaid theme.
It’s filled with ideas for making things to use, things to wear and tasty things to eat.

Having provided a list of what is needed, the authors give step-by-step instructions for such diverse projects as creating a seashore garden, making aquarium puppets and a theatre to use with them,

and you can even bake a mermaid cake or throw an ‘under-the-sea’ party serving only sea themed food and serve up that cake then. Young merpeople will love it.

Youngsters will also be enthusiastic about the book as a whole though they’ll require adult support with several of the activities.

Ancient Egypt Adventure Activity Book
illustrated by Jen Alliston
Button Books

Historical fun aplenty Ancient Egyptian style is found in this activity book.

Little ones can immerse themselves in the world of mummies, pyramids, pharaohs, hieroglyphics and ancient gods as they engage in mask making, maze manoeuvring, maths, message decoding, crafty creations, unscramble muddled up words and more. There are more than 100 activities in all as well as 4 pages of stickers to use to complete some of the scenes.

While engaging in these activities youngsters will likely learn some Ancient Egypt related language and facts too, as well as developing their fine motor and observational skills.

Jen Alliston has provided the illustrations and where relevant, answers are provided at the back of the book.

When We Walked on the Moon

When We Walked on the Moon
David Long and Sam Kalda
Wide Eyed Editions

Another of the recent, 50th anniversary of mankind’s first moon-landing outpouring of space-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, is this compelling one from David Long.

Herein, using a narrative style, he focuses in the main on the astronauts who took part in the Apollo Missions.
Dividing the text into short chapters he provides both technical details and accounts of the important incidents for the Apollo astronauts, including  pre Apollo space travels such as Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 orbiting of the Earth, before focussing on the Space Race between the Soviet and American teams to be the first to land a human on the Moon’s surface.

The focus of the second chapter is the Apollo11 flight crewed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. We read of such domestic details as how the crew ate cooked portions of beef hash, toast, biscuits and bacon that were freeze-dried in bags; how their drinking water was made and their sleeping arrangements.

The third chapter describes the actual moon landing, how the two who were to walk outside first had to rest for four hours before venturing outside in their space suits. I was fascinated to learn that eleven layers of ‘different fabrics’ were used in their space suits to protect the men from everything from space dust to pieces of flying rock and from spacecraft fire; and that said suits weighed 80kg each.

Then comes Armstrong’s famous first Moon walk,

followed shortly after by Aldrin.

The Apollo 12 mission is described next; the crew, we’re told, had twice as much time as their predecessors on the Moon’s surface and were able to carry out tests and collect samples.

We then read of the almost disastrous Apollo 13 mission and what took place aboard the spaceship following the explosion of an oxygen tank that badly damaged the service module, causing a brief but complete loss of radio communication with Earth. Happily ground staff at NASA working non-stop, together with the awesome ingenuity and courage of the astronauts aboard Aquarius, succeeded in bringing the men back home.

The amazing and absorbing story concludes with the safe return of the final Moon mission team aboard Apollo 17

and a brief look at future space travel with such enormous challenges as reaching Mars; however, as we read, ‘if Apollo showed us anything it is that with a combination of courage, determination and ingenuity we can and will go far.’

The final pages include group portraits of the crews of each Apollo mission together with brief biographies of each astronaut, a glossary and timeline.

Sam Kalda incorporates his love of pattern and texture into double page, single page and smaller illustrations of men, machines, lunarscapes and the Earth from space.

With its plethora of small humanising details, this book is strongly recommended for KS2 classroom collections and for home reading.

Planet Fashion

Planet Fashion
Natasha Slee and Cynthia Kittler
Wide Eyed Editions

Hats firmly held on and boots duly laced, we’re off on a catwalk extravaganza that embraces cultures, time and much more as it showcases in twenty five scenes, fashion history from all over the world.

We’re in the company of two young fashionistas, one male, one female, as we embark on this globetrotting experience. (It’s fun to locate them looking the part in every scene.)

The journey begins in a high society ballroom over a century ago as elegantly attired dancers and onlookers twirl or stand in their floor-sweeping Edwardian ball-gowns and suits.

Next stop is a performance of the Ballet Russes where dancers drift across the stage clad in voluminous harem pants and feathered turbans, watched by women in empire-line dresses, often wearing huge hats.

Cycling shows women sporting cycle bloomers and sometimes dresses as they pedal their bicycles in early 1900s USA.

‘Shimmying Down’ set at a Harlem Renaissance dancehall, showcases women in brightly coloured flapper fashions and men sporting long jackets or studded waistcoats.

No matter whether you wish to emulate the ’Lost generation’ of 1920s Paris; imagine yourself as a Bollywood screen star gracing the Mumbai (Bombay as it was then) roads during the 1960s, or striding carefree along the London streets of the 1950s and 60s proudly wearing a miniskirt or dress;

glue your hair into spikes like the London Punks of the 1970s; or try ‘Posing with the Girl Gang’ in the uber-cool Harajuku district of Japan from the late 1990s onwards;

or imagine yourself street dancing in South Africa’s townships in the earlier 2000s there’s a vibrant scene to show you how it’s done.

Every single lavishly illustrated spread is inclusive, with diverse characters wearing the distinguishing fashions of the era; and each has a fact box giving information about key designers, hemline and sleeves, and silhouette as well as the when and where, and descriptive paragraphs providing cultural history and influences.

If all that isn’t sufficient for even the most dedicated follower of fashion, then there are also timelines – the first of which gives a summary of key events of the 20th century, and the other four showing silhouettes, shoe styles, and trends in hats and bags. Plus there’s a final ‘Can you find’ challenge that will surely inspire readers to go back and peruse the scenes even more carefully to locate such as ‘a woman watering her flower garden on the streets of Saigon’; ‘a bird enjoying the breeze on a washing line in Canada’ or ‘a waiter dropping his tray of coffee on the streets of Paris’.

For anybody with an interest in fashion, this is a must-have book: I absolutely loved it.

D-Day

D-Day
Michael Noble and Alexander Mostov
Wide Eyed Editions

This book commemorates the 75th anniversary since D-Day, exploring through 20 real-life stories, eye-witness accounts of the D-Day landings and through whose eyes young readers can re-live the events- stories of ‘bravery, sacrifice and innovation’ as the introduction says.

Through historian Michael Noble’s text, we follow the invasion from the planning of the landings, right through to its consequences, meeting both men and women who served in various ways.

There’s Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan who fought as a junior officer in WW1 and went on to be, in WW2, part of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, one of the planners of the invasion of Europe under the joint responsibility of the British and the Americans, and in particular the Normandy landings.

Moreen James served in the WRNS as a plotter, keeping track from her Portsmouth subterranean base, of the movement of ships in the channel; a crucial task in enabling commanders to know the whereabouts of their boats and planes.

We meet the extraordinarily brave Sergeant Major Stanley Hollins, the only recipient of the Victoria Cross, considered the highest honour members of the British armed services can be awarded, for actions on D-Day.

Phyllis Allan served with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and was based in France where she tended the wounded soldiers, some of whom had suffered horrendous injuries. “It’s just a job, really’ she said.

American Richard Winters, aged 26 calls himself ‘ancient compared to some of my men’. A paratrooper, he took command of his unit when the original commander was killed in action. WW2 was the first major conflict to make use of paratroopers, a highly dangerous role with many losing their lives before hitting the ground.

Much less would have been known about the war without the journalists who reported on what was happening. One such was American, Ernie Pyle who not only wrote numerous articles, but also came to know many of the soldiers engaged in the fighting.

Through the use of collated photographs, personal accounts such as those mentioned, and testimonies from all sides, set into Alexander Mostov’s full-page illustrations that dramatise the roles of all individuals included herein, this is an enormously inspiring book.

Include it in KS2 class collections and on family bookshelves.

Scratch and Learn: Human Body / The Great Big Book of Life

Scratch and Learn: Human Body
Katy Flint and Ana Seixas
Wide Eyed Editions

I’ve loved some of the EtchArt books from Quarto but this is the first science title I’ve seen, essentially an introduction to how the human body works.

It comprises two main elements: ‘Scratch to Discover’ where the reader uses the stylus to find ten things on each of the seven spreads: the skeleton, muscles,

organs, eating and digestion, the senses, the brain

and, lungs and heart.

Then there are activities – one per spread – to demonstrate how different parts of the body function. For example the muscle-related one says, ‘With your palm facing up, touch your thumb and little finger together. This shows one of your flexor tendons working in your wrist.’

There’s also an invitation to play a search-and-find memory game.

Each topic has an introductory paragraph and some also include additional bite-size snippets of information.

Spencer investigating the skeleton

Graphic designer/illustrator Ana Seixas brings a gentle humour to the pages of this fun, interactive book to use at home that is relevant to the KS1 science curriculum.

The Great Big Book of Life
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

The 6th in The Great Big Book of … series looks at life from conception and birth to death and memories.

The early years are allocated several spreads – infant physical development,

sleep, feeding, staying healthy, learning to use the loo and how language develops.

Subsequent topics are school (including home schooling), the teenage years, work, partners,

the middle years, old age, death and finally a spread advocating living life to the full no matter who we are, which includes thinking of other people as well as ourselves.

As in previous team Hoffman and Asquith titles, diversity is a key element. Mary’s light-hearted narrative style combined with Ros’s wonderfully witty illustrations make for an informal and explicit read.

A book to add to your home or school collection.

Listen! – The Flute / World of Forests

The Flute
Ken Wilson-Max and Catell Ronca
Tiny Owl

The second in the Children Music Life series showcases a reedless woodwind instrument, the flute. Here flautists from different parts of the world come together to celebrate its magic. It’s a colourful magic that conjures up mellow sounds …

and bright ones; that sometimes speaks very softly …

or blows icily.
It might be a scream of pink, a sigh of lilac that is …

The voice through which the flutes speak is pure poetry; now why not try to discover its sounds for yourself … Where will it take you? What will you hear and see: how will you feel?

With rainbow bright illustrations from Catell Ronca and Ken Wilson-Max’s poetic words, prepare to be transported and perhaps to dance with your little one like some of the characters herein. Through music is a wonderful way to introduce very young children to stories: this little treasure of a book will help you do just that.

World of Forests
Robert Hunter
Wide Eyed Editions

Robert Hunter follows his World of Birds with a new Sounds of Nature title in which he explores ten different forest habitats from various parts of the world – Europe (including the UK), the USA, South America, Africa, India, Socotra Island (Yemen) and China.
Each habitat is given a double spread wherein are showcased the animal inhabitants (with a factual paragraph on each one) as well as a general introduction to the particular forest be it of the coniferous or deciduous kind.
Six or seven creatures are included in each location be that the German evergreen forest; the Redwood forest of California; England’s New Forest; the Amazon rainforest; a cloud forest in the Virunga Mountains of East Africa;

a desert forest of Socotra Island; a beech forest of Brussels;

the Sundarbans mangrove forest in the Bay of Bengal (I don’t think this is at ‘the southern tip of India’ as stated in the book though); the coniferous taiga (snow) forest of Alaska; or the bamboo forest in the mountains dividing North and South China.

Pressing the sound button on each spread produces a ten second burst of the natural sounds of 60 or more animals. You’ll need to listen very carefully to identify such creatures as the squawking macaws of the rainforest or the call of the Northern wren in the beech forest.

The whole thing is splendidly atmospheric: with its beautiful panoramic illustrations and fascinating soundscapes it’s a book that is likely to appeal across a wide age range.

What’s Going On Inside My Head? / Step Into Your Power

What’s Going On Inside My Head?
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Bloomsbury Featherstone

Developing and supporting emotional literacy is, or should be, a crucial part of young children’s education in school and most teachers consider it so.

However, parents/carers can at times feel inadequate when it comes to talking to and supporting their children’s mental health, and at an increasingly younger age children come under enormous pressure be that through the education system (I could rant at length about that) or out of school in clubs and activities in which they participate, as well as through social media and advertising. What parents need to do is to love and support children not for what they can achieve but for who and what they are.

To this end Molly Potter, a teacher who specialises in PSHE has written a very helpful book to share with young children.

By means of twelve questions she explores a range of topics: how to think about oneself; the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind (how the former feeds into the latter);

the notion of happiness; dealing with emotions; coping with feelings of anger, sadness and fear; coping with negative thoughts that seem overwhelming (suggestions to prevent ‘ruminating’ and instead focusing on being in the moment); dealing with upsets triggered by another person (forgiving is important here).

There’s also a spread on meditation and its potential benefits;

another on who to ask for help when it’s needed; the role of family and friends as a supportive network; being a better friend and finally, improving one’s own thinking habits – being proactive when something is upsetting you.

Many of the topics includes a ‘top tip’ or ‘It’s good (or important) to know that …’ paragraph and I particularly like the coping plan

and the invitation to hold up a mirror to oneself and think about which behaviours ‘you like’, ‘don’t mind’ and ‘really do not like’.
The book concludes with three pages of guidance for parents and carers.

Throughout Sarah Jennings’ inclusive illustrations both support and extend Molly’s straightforward, sensible, practical words.

For an older age group is:

Step Into Your Power
Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins
Wide Eyed Editions

Here’s a book I wish I’d had when I was growing up. Both author Jamia Wilson (executive director of the Feminist Press) and illustrator/designer Andrea Pippins act as mentors in this, their guide to helping girls to grow into confident young women, cognisant of their strengths (and the areas they need to work at), and sufficiently empowered to step out and follow their dreams.

Subtitled ‘23 lessons on how to live your best life’, the book offers exactly that and made me want to go immediately and seek out some young females to share it with.

After an inspiring introduction, said lessons are organised into five sections entitled: Power, Community, Choices, Act! and Self-Care and all sections comprise several key elements each of which is allocated a double spread (or two) illustrated in vibrant colour by Andrea.

Thinking outside the box, abandoning old habits that are no longer appropriate in today’s richly diverse society, and not always following the rules, are explored and the author mentions as examples some visionary rule-challenging individuals.

Each topic has an encouraging and uplifting ‘Step into your power’ section.

Thoroughly recommended for upper primary readers and beyond.

Brilliant Ideas from Wonderful Women / Little Miss Inventor / Amazing Women Sticker Scenes

Brilliant Ideas from Wonderful Women
Aitziber Lopez and Luciano Lozano
Wide Eyed Editions

Let’s give three rousing cheers for the brilliantly inventive women behind the first car heater, the game Monopoly, disposable nappies, the dishwasher, the domestic surveillance system, Kevlar, maritime flares, non reflective glass, WIFI, one-hand operated syringes,

the submarine telescope, diagnostic tests in medicine, the life raft, windscreen wipers and the E-book.

All these ground- breaking inventions came about thanks to the work of the pioneering, creative spirit of the women featured in this book. Each one has made a significant contribution to science or technology in either the 19th or 20th century and they are each given a spread in this celebratory book.

For several of those included, the invention featured is not their only one. For instance Chicago-born Margaret A. Wilcox is credited with inventing the first washing machine in addition to the car heater discussed here; Hedy Lamarr, in addition to WIFI – surprisingly inspired by piano keys we’re told – invented Bluetooth and GPS. And, Marion O’Brien Donovan went on to invent a number of other things – dental floss, a soap dish that drained and a hanger that could hold up to 30 garments – being some of them.
It will come as no surprise to learn that these women inventors all had to overcome enormous odds to get their work patented and marketed, not least African-American Marie Van Brittan Brown the brains behind the 1966 domestic surveillance system; indeed she (and her husband) weren’t successful in marketing their system although many others made fortunes inspired by the original patent.

Maria Beasley inventor of the life raft did not have her invention taken seriously until the disastrous Titanic sinking. Maria’s life rafts were on the liner but not in sufficient numbers to save everyone.

All this fascinating information and more is included in scientist Aitziber Lopez’s inspiring book.

I love the way, illustrator Luciano Lozano has cleverly incorporated both the inspiration for, and use of each invention, into his amusing spreads.

This is a book I’d certainly want to have in my KS1/early KS2 classroom as well as recommending it for families who want to celebrate with the children, the achievements of women, and that should be every family.

Little Miss Inventor
Adam Hargreaves
Egmont

Adam Hargreaves (son of Roger) has created a new Little Miss and who wouldn’t love a book with a young female inventor?

Little Miss Inventor has a brain brimming over with good ideas; ideas that she transforms into inventions in her garden shed. Her self-imagined, self-built mobile house is chock-full of her awesome inventions and she loves to create useful things for her friends as well as herself.

One day however, her brain power is tested to the limit: she needs to make Mr Rude a birthday present; but what can one give to a person who hurls insults at everyone he meets. Can she think of something appropriate and if so what could it be?

Feminist power with a STEM theme and a laugh out loud finale for your little ones.

Amazing Women Sticker Scenes
illustrated by Isabel Muñoz
Red Shed

This book contains ten illustrated backdrops  by Isabel Muñoz that include basic key information about ten women who have made in their own fields, significant contributions to society through their achievements in aviation, girls’ rights to education, science, literature, sport, women’s rights and architecture.

In addition there are six pages of stickers to add to the relevant scenes. This could be a good way to introduce the numerous sticker-mad youngsters to these wonderful women.

A Year of Nature Poems

A Year of Nature Poems
Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd
Wide Eyed Editions

Here’s the perfect book to start off 2019 and give us all something to look forward to other than the doom and gloom that issues forth whenever one turns on the TV or radio news and current affairs.

Award-winning performance poet Joseph Coelho has penned twelve poems about the natural world, one for every month of the year. Each is introduced with a brief prose paragraph to set the scene, and beautifully illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd in folk art style.

Joe is one for creating powerful images in his writing and it’s certainly so here.

There are reflective poems, several of which seemingly stem from the author’s own childhood, one such is April. ‘ When there was electricity in the sunset / I’d lay in the sky-hug of our balcony hammock / and swing. The rain was always welcome / each drop a cold thrill/ that relaxed and washed away.’

Reflective too and exquisitely expressed is his account of creating a pond and its visitation by mayflies in May.
‘They’re quick to shed their awkwardness. / The dead pond, I couldn’t bring myself to fill-in, / explodes into an exultation / of fairy dust / and angel light / of dancing tears / and sparkling goodbyes / as wild life fills / the hole we dug.’

In its final verse February laments the decline in amphibian numbers but before that we’re treated to a lyrical description of frogspawn: ‘Soft pond jewels are forming / in sunlit forest pools. // Expectation and hope / balled-up in clear jelly. Frog-baby crèche.’

Many of us as youngsters indulged in a spot of scrumping but my partner has never grown out of this activity and still enjoys liberating apparently unwanted fruit as summer gives way to autumn. So, I was amused to read Joe’s fruitful account of childhood exploits of so doing in his August poem.

You can almost smell smoke so vivid is the description of leaf fall and the autumnal hues enjoyed by a young Joseph with his mother one October: ‘The leaves were piled / bonfire high / whizzing russets, shooting oranges, exploding yellows /that she scooped in armfuls / and cascaded over me / in a dry-leaf firework display / of love.’

A year as seen through Joe Coelho’s poems offers a terrific sensory awakening to put us all in mindful mode, and perhaps inspire children to pen their own responses to the beauty of the natural world.

Find My Rocket / Elephants on Tour / Egypt Magnified

Find My Rocket
Aleksandra Artymowska
Laurence King Publishing

Aleksandra Artymowska is a terrific illustrator; I first came across her amazing work through another maze book, Amazed. Now it looks as though the same boy from that book has returned needing help in another puzzling adventure. This time having sent his red rocket jetting off into space he needs our help to locate it in eleven differently themed maze scenes. It’s easy enough for readers to spot the whizzing spacecraft but finding the right way through the intricately detailed possible pathways presents a real puzzler.

Every one of Aleksandra’s scenes be it the paper cranes, the building blocks, the toolbox or the teddies,

is packed with wonderful small objects, visual jokes and more – love the alliterative manoeuvres the lad performs during his search– catapulted through the cars, dodged all the dominoes, for instance, before he finally succeeds in retrieving the object he launched.

A great book to immerse oneself in as the evenings draw in; if you’ve yet to discover Aleksandra Artymowska, then this is a great place to start.

Elephants on Tour
Guillaume Cornet
Laurence King Publishing

Having packed their trunks, five elephants are ready to embark on a world tour and we’re invited. First though we need to get to know something about our fellow adventurers: there’s the highly organised guy with his bags full of maps and tickets. He’s accompanied by a food connoisseur; the arty one, the photographer and the energetic one who insists on taking his skateboard along.

Having done London aboard a red double decker, the next port of call is Amsterdam with its canals and cycle lanes to explore. No doubt they sampled the syrupy waffles, a speciality of the city.

I’m sure they would also have tried the blinis in St. Petersburg and kayaked along one of the rivers or taken a ride on the Mongolian railway.

After visiting sixteen locations on five continents the final stop in their frenetic journey before returning to home shores, is Paris.

Along the way we receive a running commentary from the five travellers and for each location a fact file and other useful information. We’ll definitely need all that because at the outset, we are asked to make sure we find each of the elephants and their favourite belongings at every stopping place. No easy task with so much to look at. (Answers are supplied at the end of the tour.) My head is spinning after that.

With Guillaume Cornet’s intricately detailed scenes, this search and find journey is totally engrossing; those cityscapes are mind-boggling.

Egypt Magnified
David Long and Harry Bloom
Wide Eyed Editions

One possible way to get youngsters interested in times past, especially those who can’t get enough search-and-find books is this offering from Long and Bloom. Readers are invited to travel back through the centuries and visit sixteen Egyptian scenes, including the Great Pyramid and Tutankhamun’s tomb that are absolutely teeming with tiny figures.

Once in ancient Egypt, there are  ten items or people to spot in each illustration and on reaching the end, readers are encouraged to go back and hunt for another 57, plus a hidden mummy on every spread. (There’s a magnifying glass to facilitate the search inside the front cover, because, so we’re told, every Egyptologist needs one.)

Forgotten Beasts / Dictionary of Dinosaurs / Dinosaur Bingo

Forgotten Beasts
Matt Sewell
Pavilion Children’s Books

If you’ve ever wondered about the strange animals that were concurrent with, or followed in the footsteps of, the dinosaurs, then Matt Sewell’s sumptuous new book is the place to go. ‘Welcome to the amazing world of forgotten beasts!’ announces the introductory line of the book’s blurb. Of the over forty astonishing creatures large and small, most are completely new to this reviewer. Matt supplies readers with a note on his illustrations and there’s a double spread with a time line and other introductory matter before the animals are showcased.

First, we’re introduced to some of the very earliest ones that made their homes in the water: there’s the Ordovician marine dwelling Cameroceras with its 9-metre-long conical shell and the Dunkleosteus from the late Devonian period with its razor sharp teeth that it used to crack open shells of the creatures it fed on.

Two of my favourites though come much later, from the late Pliocene – late Pleistocene era.: meet the herbivorous rhino-like Elasmotherium that weighed between 3,500 and 4,500 kg.

Despite being only around a metre tall, the horn of the male sometimes grew to a length of 1.8 metres.
Another, the enormous owl Ornimegalonyx, is also from the late Pleistocene era. Over a metre tall, it weighed nine kilos.

Awesome!

Written in consultation with vertebrate palaeontologist, Dr Stephen Brusatte from Edinburgh University, this fascinating book will broaden he horizons of dinosaur enthusiasts. Every one of Matt’s magnificent paintings is a stunner.

Dictionary of Dinosaurs
illustrated by Dieter Braun, edited by Dr. Matthew G.Baron
Wide Eyed Editions

Wow! Every dinosaur that has ever been discovered is featured in this pictorial dictionary and who better to grace its pages with his awesome illustrations than Dieter Braun.

After a short introduction explaining the what, when, the demise and evidence of dinosaurs, comes a timeline and a page explaining how the book might be used.
Then we meet each one from Aardonyx and Abelisaurus to Zhuchengtyrannus and Zuniceratops, none of which I’d previously heard of.
There’s a brief informative description that includes  how to pronounce the name, length, diet, when it lived and where found – just sufficient to whet the appetite and perhaps send eager readers off searching for additional information about some of particular interest.

For dinosaur addicts and school libraries or topic boxes I suggest.

For those who can’t get enough of things prehistoric, is a game for the dino-mad:

Dinosaur Bingo
illustrated by Caroline Selmes
Magma for Laurence King Publishing

In the sturdy box are a folded caller’s game board, eight double-sided players’ game boards, 48 dinosaur tokens, 150 circular counters and a dinosaur head box to contain the tokens.
Between three and eight people can participate in what is likely to be a popular take on the classic game. Players might even learn some new dinosaur names such as Maiasaura or Therizinosaurus along the way. I certainly did.

Great for families or a group of friends, and it would make a good present for a dinosaur-loving child.

Voyage Through Space

Voyage Through Space
Katy Flint and Cornelia Li
Wide Eyed Editions

In the company of a little astronaut and her dog, readers are taken on a journey of adventure in space starting at the Sun, the centre of our solar system.

So it’s space suits and helmets on and off we go exploring the planets, our first stop being Mercury, closest to the Sun and the smallest planet in our solar system. We learn that its surface is covered in craters on account of the meteors that have crashed into it over millions of years; we discover that its temperature varies dramatically; it’s ‘blisteringly hot’ by day and very cold at night. Did you know that on Mercury a year is a mere 88 days long?

Venus is next closest where temperatures can go as high as 460 ℃ – OUCH! This is the hottest planet, has no moon and is impossible to explore.

Next stopping place is the moon, whereon American astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were the first to land, a good place from which to observe Earth.

The red planet, Mars is the next stop; a place prone to fierce dust storms . A sol (Martian day) is approximately 39 minutes longer than an Earth day.

Passing through the asteroid belt takes the explorers to the largest planet in our solar system and fifth from the sun. NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently studying Jupiter with its liquid surface and clouds of toxic gases.

The ringed planet, Saturn is the next destination. There strong hurricanes rage and the surface is mostly liquids and swirling gases. I was amazed to learn that a year on Saturn is more than 29 Earth years.

Uranus glows blue when seen in the distance from Saturn. That’s the next place viewed. Its surface is the coldest in the universe and the explorers are unable to stand thereon as its surface is gaseous, although beneath the blue-green gas clouds, scientists believe enormous gems are to be found. If only …

The final planet on the journey is Neptune, even windier than Jupiter and the furthest from the Sun. Voyager 2 took a whole two years to reach Neptune from Earth. Thereafter the adventurers reach the ‘frisbee-shaped Kuiper belt … Time to head home.

All this information is provided in easily digestible bite size chunks scattered on the relevant spread, most of which is taken up with Cornelia Li’s powerful and intriguing illustration. You can almost feel the intense heat coming from some of the pages and taste with swirling gases from others.
In addition there’s a glow-in-the-dark, fold-out poster at the back of the book to further excite young readers.

EtchArt: Enchanted Garden / EtchArt: Forgotten Jungle

EtchArt: Enchanted Garden
EtchArt: Forgotten Jungle
A.J.Wood, Mike Jolley and Dinara Mirtalipova
Wide Eyed Editions
These two additions to the EtchArt series will have their users setting out on a folk-art inspired journey through nature as they use the stylus provided to remove the inky-black covering and etch away at the nine beautiful Enchanted Garden or Forgotten Jungle scenes.

The former takes us to Fantastic Flowers, The Bird Fountain, we meet Crafty Cat, look In the Apple Tree and The Garden Pond, visit A Strawberry Patch, enjoy The Garden’s Bounty, Roses Galore and watch Crazy Caterpillars.

Authors Wood and Jolley provide instructions for each location as well as words of encouragement and a rhyming couplet to accompany Dinara Mirtalipova’s illustrations, which bring a chic elegance to each spread.

And the final verse bids users farewell with: ‘This magic garden is revealed / It’s time for us to part / Its wonders are no more concealed – / it’s your own work of art.

So it is with the latter, only the first line of the verse changes to ‘Forgotten Jungle’.
In this mysterious place users spy Perfect Parrots, call on Tiger Tiger, spot Lively Lizards and Amazing Orchids,

visit Hummingbird Heaven, enjoy some Monkey Business, observe The Sacred Ibis and The Jungle by Night and finally see Lazy Leopards.

In each scene you can take off the entire covering, or create swirling, twirling patterns, stripes, dots or whatever takes your fancy by way of personalisation.

Both are thoroughly enjoyable, absorbing and also restful, so long as you don’t let an under 3 year old loose with the stylus.

Perfect holiday activity away from the sun!

World of Birds / My RSPB Sticker Activity Book: Woodland Animals

World of Birds
Robert Hunter
Wide Eyed Editions
This is the first of a new Sounds of Nature series, which has ten 10-second natural soundscapes available at the touch of a button.
Herein readers can visit and explore ten diverse habitats—from the Himalayan Mountains

to the wetlands of Kenya’s Lake Nakuru, and the tropical rainforest of New Guinea to an English forest

and listen to birds in the wild with this exciting book, strikingly illustrated by Robert Frank Hunter.
There’s a brief paragraph of facts about each bird species included and their respective numbers relate to the order in which the sounds they make can be heard.
An interactive book for young, and not so young nature lovers that called to mind an alarm, sounded by ecologist and musician, Bernie Krause in his recent book: ‘A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening.’
Let’s hope that it doesn’t spread over the wonderful habitats featured by Hunter.

My RSPB Sticker Activity Book: Woodland Animals
Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Walker Books

There’s a range of activities to engage young children in this woodland setting book. Readers can enjoy dot to dots,

colour in some of the creatures including completing and ensuring the symmetry of the peacock and red admiral butterflies (they’d have to check elsewhere for the colours of the latter), add stickers to scenes (in some cases completing a puzzle), hunt for partially hidden nocturnal animals, complete a maze and spot differences.

The semi-matt finish and reproductive quality of the stickers, along with the illustrator’s attractive collage style art work and the factual information integrated into the various scenes make this a book to keep and return to after the tasks have been completed.

Spot the Mistake: Journeys of Discovery

Spot the Mistake: Journeys of Discovery
Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Frances Castle
Wide Eyed Editions

If my experience with the previous Spot the Mistake title, Lands of Long Ago, is anything to go by, children will eagerly seize upon this follow up that encompasses ten explorative expeditions with famous travellers from Marco Polo to the NASA Apollo moon mission.

Each of the journeys is allocated two double spreads, the first being a large scene featuring the explorer and aspects of the journey undertaken, and contains 20 visual incongruities for spotters to discover.
The subsequent spread identifies the ‘anachronisms’ (some are much more easily spotted than others,) in a smaller annotated scene and provides some explanation; and there’s also a paragraph about the particular journey and the explorer(s) involved.

With explorers as diverse as Zheng He from China who, in the 15th C, led voyages that took him and his fleet to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, and Edmund Hillary who, with his trusty guide, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain in 1953.

Young eagle-eyed spotters will definitely enjoy finding the Elvis picture among those displayed on the Zheng He spread; the basket of apples and incomplete lunar calendar in Columbus’ ‘New World’ scene;

and the laptop lurking in the early 20C South Pole scene that features Captain Scott.

Frances Castle’s diorama style scenes are both engaging and contain just the right amount of detail to be inviting but not overwhelming.

Between the covers of this book there’s a wealth of learning potential in the form of a game.

Plantopedia / Summer

Plantopedia
Adrienne Barman
Wide Eyed Editions

Barman follows up her Creaturepedia with a celebration of more than 600 plants that includes trees, fruits, flowers – wild and cultivated, vegetables, herbs, weeds, healing plants and more from all over the world.

Somewhat strangely for this reviewer at least, we start indoors with ‘The air fresheners’ – plants to grow indoors that clean the air. This section is followed by ‘The all-blacks’ and then ’The aquatics’ ‘The big eaters’ and another colour section – ‘The blues and purples’. I’m not sure whether the author had a plan in mind when she arranged the spreads but to me the section sequencing seems quirky and perhaps random which creates something of a surprise element.I particularly liked The Stars pages.

Having said that the whole book is packed with learning possibilities in various curriculum areas such as science, geography, history, art perhaps (although it’s better to use real plants I suggest) and almost every topic could be an inspiration for further investigation.

In contrast to the rest of the book, the appendix devoted to three aspects of leaves – shape, arrangement and edges/veins – is straightforward botany.

The illustrations are bright, engaging and gently humorous – look out for animals popping up on lots of spreads, and the odd human from time to time.

One for budding botanists, the family bookshelf or school library.

For younger readers, with plants also taking centre stage is:

Summer
David A. Carter
Abrams Appleseed

Just in time for summer comes David A. Carter’s fourth and final pop-up in his seasons series. Carter has created six plant pop-ups –one of which he places at the centre of each spread,

and in and around them are to be found various animals including birds, butterflies and other minibeasts, small mammals, a snake, a turtle and a fish.

A brief accompanying text invites children to get involved by asking such questions as ‘Who eats the flowers?’ or ‘Who swims in the creek?’

Fun and captivating, this is an American publication so some of the named items will be unfamiliar but that offers a good talking point for readers in parts of the world other than the USA.

Everybunny Count! / abc

Everybunny Count!
Ellie Sandall
Hodder Children’s Books

Since making friends in Everybunny Dance, ’Fox and bunnies like to play, / all together, every day.’ And their chosen game for this particular day is hide-and-seek.

The bunnies do their countdown and the hunt for fox commences. The first finding is a single badger soon followed by two bunnies spotting two birds: ‘Everybunny count to TWO!’

The search continues. Three bunnies spy three frisky squirrels; four find four ladybirds.

The pond is a fruitful place for fresh discoveries: five diving bunnies see five ducks while among the sticks, six bunnies find six frogs. ‘Everybunny count to SIX!’
Next stop is the carrot patch – just the place for a crunchy carrot nibble. It’s getting late and eight bunnies are anything but observant in their haste …

By now those bunnies are feeling sleepy as they form a line and count to NINE! (sheep) and then hurrah! There among the trees, close to his den is Fox.

There’s another surprise however for at the count of ten what should appear but ten little fox cubs and a proud mother.

It’s time to dance …

Ellie Sandall’s rhyming text with its infectious repetition ‘Everybunny count to …’ bounces along as beautifully as the bunnies. Add to that her deliciously playful pencil and watercolour illustrations (children will delight in occasional glimpses of Fox along the way) that lead to this …

and we have a counting book story that’s full of fun and sure to result in echoes of the animals’ “Let’s play hide-and-seek again.”

abc
Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions

Learning the alphabet is just a part of this new addition to the Learning Garden series. Young children can have fun not only naming the objects for each letter of the alphabet but also enjoying the various patterns, shapes and bright colours that are part and parcel of every page.

There are numerous opportunities for language learning, depending on the child’s interest and the skill of the adult sharer. You might for example, chose two or three of the letters and illustrated objects, and use them to make up a story together. The sturdy pages mean that this little board book should stand up well to the enthusiastic use it’s likely to get in a nursery or family.

Wild World, The Coral Kingdom and Who’s Hiding on the River? / Who’s Hiding on the Farm?

Wild World
Angela McAllister, Hvass & Hannibal
Wide Eyed Editions

The author has chosen thirteen natural habitats – Rainforest, Arctic, Prairie, Woodland, Coral reef, Desert, Rock pool, Mountain, The Outback, Moorland, Deep sea, Mangrove and Savannah – that are under threat due to human activity, and captures the essence of each one in a series of free verses.
Here’s the opening to Mountain:
‘I am the highest mountain, / Born in a collision of continents. / All is beneath me, except the sun, moon and stars. / I am rock, / Crag, cliff and ledge, draped in veils of white. / I am snow-maker, with glaciers in my arms, / Whose meltwater swells great rivers below.’

In stark contrast is the quieter sounding Savannah, which opens like this: ‘Savannah speaks in whispering grasses, / In the chatter of cicadas across an endless plain. / Spacious homeland of swift cheetah / And gazelle, with the horizon in her eye.’

Using matte colours, the illustrators Hvass and Hannibal showcase the flora and fauna of each location in a series of eye-catching paintings that incorporate the text within them.

Human use, climate change and pollution are responsible for the damage to the environment and after her introductory poem, it’s not until the final pages that the author enlarges upon her conservation message citing the specific damage within the thumbnail sketch of each of the places portrayed. Thereafter she implores readers to use less energy, to recycle and to buy with care.

We’d all do well to keep in mind her final words about our precious planet: ‘Explore it, protect it, love it. / Our Earth is a wonderful wild world. ‘

Also with an ecological message is:

The Coral Kingdom
Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber
Words & Pictures

Our coral reefs, with their gorgeous colours: crimson, red, rose, yellow,

turquoise, emerald, jade, purple, even black, that have taken 1000s of years to grow and give home to a myriad of creatures large and small are under threat.

When the coral is bleached white due to acidity caused by climate change, and stays white for too long, then the reef dies.

Laura Knowles has written a rhyming narrative that outlines the life cycle of a reef and includes a caution that unless we humans take action these amazing ecosystems will be lost forever.

Jennie Webber’s detailed watercolour illustrations show the beauty of the undersea habitat and a final fold-out page gives additional information about coral reef conservation.

A useful addition to a primary school conservation topic box, or, for a child interested in ocean life or ecosystems.

Who’s Hiding on the River? / Who’s Hiding on the Farm?
Katharine McEwen
Nosy Crow

It’s never too early to start learning about nature and here are two board books just right for introducing animals, some wild and some domesticated, to the very young.

Both are beautifully illustrated by Katharine McEwen and there are lots of animals to find in both locations.

Toddlers can spend a day by the river, from a busy morning through to night-time as they explore the pages, manipulate the sturdy flaps in response to the ‘Who’s hiding here?’ on every right hand page to discover tadpoles, cygnets, fish, dragonflies, a stoat, a beaver and more as they swim, wriggle, wade, leap, build and paddle.
The farm book also moves through the day in similar fashion and McEwen’s text is carefully worded to introduce new vocabulary including ‘pecking,’ ‘trotting’, ‘snoozing’ ‘prowling’, munching’ and ‘diving’ along the way.

Published in collaboration with the National Trust these are fun and at the same time, gently educational.

Search-and-Find Alphabet of Alphabets

Search-and-Find Alphabet of Alphabets
Allan Sanders, Mike Jolley and Amanda Wood
Wide Eyed

There are countless alphabet books for children, mainly aimed at youngsters who are learning about letters and their order. This is altogether different: a search-and-find book where each of the 26 letters in the alphabet has a different theme.
Thus A is for Alphabet and introduces the remaining letters and their topic – B is for birds; C for Creepy-Crawlies; D is for Dinosaurs, E is for Earth and so on.
Within each topic is another A to Z, so for instance, readers need to find the bird that represents each letter from Albatross to Zebra finch.

In some spreads the items to find are captioned …

whereas in others such as the Forest spread there’s a key on the edge of each page showing and captioning the things to look for within the main illustration, adding an extra dimension of fun.

The vocabulary is at times fairly challenging: the Toyshop spread for example includes a Zoetrope while Neighbourhood has a Viaduct and an Underpass as well as a Duck pond and a Road.

Two of my favourite spreads are W whereon we’re welcomed to a ‘wacky wardrobe of things to wear’…

and School where it’s the pupils’ names that represent the letters of the alphabet and we have to name their associated objects.

The authors admit to the odd spot of rule bending when it comes to X: some of the words don’t begin with X but have it somewhere within them and as for Q well, there’s a crown wearing queenie who insists on popping up everywhere!

Allan Sanders has a superb eye when it comes to design: every spread looks totally different and enormously inviting.

All in all, 1 crackingly clever, original book; 26 awesome alphabets and 676 terrific things to find.

Search-and-Find Bonanza – The Walkabout Orchestra, Mice in the City London and Cycle City

The Walkabout Orchestra
Chloé Perarnau
Wide Eyed

What has happened to the members of the orchestra? They’ve all gone missing and there’s an important concert coming up in a few days. Seemingly they’ve dispersed to locations all over the world from where they’ve sent the maestro postcards telling of their various activities. These appear in the top left-hand corner of each locale spread.
In a desperate effort to locate the musicians, the maestro, together with his side- kick, sets off in search of them. Their journey takes them to such diverse places as a fishing village in Iceland, Tokyo, a campsite in France, the pyramids of Egypt, carnival in Brazil and a football field in Abidjan.
In addition to finding the missing musicians, almost every place has a little yellow bird whose speech bubble provides something additional to search for in the lively scenes of the musicians’ sojourns.
Each one is packed with amusing details so that finding the musicians is often no easy matter. However they do all appear within a large arena ready for the concert with their maestro ready to conduct, bird atop his head.
Don’t start reading this if you are short of time, unless you are happy to cheat and look at the answers on the two final spreads.

Mice in the City London
Ami Shin
Thames & Hudson

It’s a mouse takeover: London had been invaded by an army of tiny rodents; some – The Mouses of Parliament for instance, – have jobs to do, others are there to enjoy the sights and some are turning Tate Modern into complete disarray. One daring mouse has even installed herself as Queen Mouse in Buckingham Palace.
A verse introduces each location, opposite which is a detailed whole page pastel coloured illustration of the particular tourist attraction under mouse occupation: every one is full of things to delight and entertain.
The purpose of the book, in addition to enjoying what the mice are up to, is a game of ‘hide-and-squeak’ that entails finding eight things – Inspector Mouse, a stripy tailed cat, Bumble-mouse, a mouse in a bin, a teddy, a Union Jack top hat, a mouse hiding in a top hat and a balloon seller.
Happy Hunting! You’re in for some fun with Ami Shin’s mice.
In the same series is Mice in the City New York. Oh my goodness! Think of the chaos the little creatures might cause in The Strand Bookstore!

Cycle City
Alison Farrell
Chronicle Books

It’s the morning of the Starlight Parade in Cycle City but the parade committee has yet to send out the invitations so they decide to call on the assistance of Mayor Snail.
Can he get all those invites delivered in time for the evening? Perhaps, with the help of Little Ella Elephant who has come to visit one of the city’s residents, her Aunt Ellen. If so, who will play the important role of Grand Marshal at the big event?

A captivating search-and-find for slightly younger readers: this one has a clear storyline and a plethora of speech bubbles and is populated by a vast array of anthropomorphic animals. The spreads are less densely packed than some of its ilk, but have plenty of lovely details, and the endpapers are a visual glossary of all the different bicycles included.

I’ve signed the charter  

Young, Gifted and Black

Young, Gifted and Black
Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins
Wide Eyed Editions

All children deserve to see themselves represented positively in stories. That’s why we’re highlighting the talent and contributions of black change-makers from around the world – for readers of all backgrounds to discover.’ So say the creators of this splendid book in their introduction.
It’s a sterling objective and one that is achieved with panache.

The title itself comes from Nina Simone’s song, ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ and the book features 52 iconic activists, politicians, film directors, actors, entrepreneurs, athletes and other sporting legends,

writers, artists, scientists, singers, musicians and more from around the world.

Jamia Wilson introduces each one with a short biography that encompasses details about their birth (and death if relevant), their accomplishments and achievements, and includes a powerful quotation. Here are a few:
Reading is an exercise in empathy, an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.’ (Malorie Blackman);
Children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but the content of their character.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.
If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’ Shirley Chisholm;
It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.’ Wangari Maathai.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ Nelson Mandela.

The order of presentation is seemingly random and the majority of those featured are from the 20th century although there are also some earlier icons such as Mary Seacole and Alexandre Dumas.

Andrea Pippin’s illustrations are rendered predominantly in shades of pink, green, yellow, red and each double spread has a pleasing unifying design and colour palette.

This is a fine tribute to the black changemakers included, an inspiring read for youngsters and a must have book for Black History Month.

I’ve signed the charter  

What Do Animals Do All Day? / Rainforest

What Do Animals Do All Day?
Wendy Hunt and Muti
Wide Eyed Editions

This is a follow-up and in some ways, a companion volume to What Do Grown-ups Do All Day? The author and illustrator take us to fourteen different habitats – every spread has lots to look at – and for each, on the following spread, introduces us to eight residents, every one of which briefs us on its role in that particular ecosystem.

Some of the job descriptions will make young children laugh. The Decorator Crab that resides on coral reefs and sticks pieces of sponge onto its shell as camouflage describes itself as a ‘fashion designer’ …

while the Large-eared Horseshoe Bat calls itself a ‘sound engineer’ since it makes use of sound waves and echoes to locate moths in the dark.

I certainly have no desire to encounter the Striped Skunk, a forest resident that sprays stinky ‘perfume’ lasting several days. and describes its role as ‘perfumier’.
Another forest dweller the North American Porcupine tells readers its an ‘acupuncturist’.

I particularly liked the Death Stalker Scorpion’s description of itself s ‘brain surgeon’s assistant’. (Researchers are using its venom in a cure for brain tumours.)

If you were to visit the wetland reed beds in Somerset you might come across animals who describe themselves as ‘sleigh-rider, ‘aerobatic flyer’, ‘camper’, ‘trapeze artist’, ‘sun-seeker’, ‘submariner’, ‘opera singer’ and ‘synchronised swimmer’. Can you think what their common names might be?

An attractive, somewhat quirky book that provides plenty for children to talk about.

Rainforest
Julia Groves
Child’s Play

The focus here is on the visual, with fifteen animals being featured in Julia Groves’ first picture book. (Sixteen if you count the butterfly on the title page) None is named until the final spread where detailed information about each of them is given in tiny print.

A single line of text accompanies each illustration that evokes the nature of the particular creature, so for instance, ‘Fleeting ripples trace the runner’ accompanies the picture of the Plumed Basilisk Lizard; ‘Slowly stalking, majestic and silent.’ is the Jaguar and …

‘ Flickering tongues sense the air’

The rainforest is, as the book’s blurb tells us, a ‘precious and endangered habitat’; Julia Groves imaginative presentation of some of its inhabitants offers young readers an opportunity to enjoy what most of us will never see in the wild.

Get Christmassy

Pick a Pine Tree
Patricia Toht and Jarvis
Walker Books
There’s a real glow of seasonal joy to this rhyming journey of a pine tree from a tree lot to pride of place as a sparkling family Christmas tree.
A family visits the snowy tree lot, chooses a tree and takes it home on top of their car.

Once indoors, space is created, the tree trunk trimmed and when the tree is safely standing, out come the decorations ready for when their friends arrive to join in the fun of adding all the fairy lights, baubles, tinsel and finally to complete the transformation, right at the top, the star.

From its opening ‘Pick a pine tree / from the lot – // slim and tall / or short and squat. / One with spiky needle clumps, / scaly bark, or sappy bumps.’ Toht’s text bounces along beautifully – just right for a Christmas storytime session and a perfect antidote to the plastic ‘take apart’ trees that have become so popular in recent times.
Jarvis’ mixed media illustrations have a lovely vintage feel to them and there’s a wonderful magical final scene.

Let it Glow: A Winter’s Walk
Owen Gildersleeve
Wide Eyed Editions
Cut paper collage scenes glow with 5 white lights  as a boy walks home on Christmas Eve clutching a parcel. At each page turn the lights softly shine illuminating a fair, carol singers, a snowy hillside with sledgers, a frozen lake on which skaters swirl and then the exterior and interiors of the boy’s home.
Told through rhyming couplets, and presumably intended to be shared in soft lighting, Gildersleeve’s spreads offer plenty of talking points in addition to the twinkling lights.

Red & Lulu
Matt Tavares
Walker Books
With a USA setting this dramatically illustrated, touching tale tells how a pair of cardinals becomes separated when their tree home is cut down and taken to New York City Rockefeller Centre to be its Christmas tree with Lulu, one of the pair trapped inside.
Red returns from his search for food to discover his home gone and with it his partner.
Superb spreads, some wordless or almost so, then follow his search for her, the birds’ reunion and eventual relocation in a park.

Search & Find: A Christmas Carol
retold by Sarah Powell, illustrated by Louise Pigott
Studio Press
Here’s a novel take on the ever-growing ‘spotting’ books: it’s the second in a series of classic tales to be given a search and find adaptation by Studio Press.
It’s not so much a retelling of the Dickens’ story, rather it’s an unusual way to encourage young readers into the world of Dickens and this tale in particular, especially around the festive season.
The characters are all there and waiting to be spotted in various scenes – fourteen in all.
There are four ghost spreads including The Ghost of Jacob Marley (with a spendidly spooky door knocker) the Ghost of Christmas Past and The Ghost of Christmas Present; two parties to visit – Mr Fezziwig’s and the one at Fred’s house; a rather grim graveyard scene and more.
Engaging and fun.

Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures / Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures

Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures
Matt Sewell
Pavilion Books

Of the 1,000 dinosaur species that have already been identified, (so we’re told in the introduction) some fifty grace the pages of this beautifully illustrated book by wildlife author and artist Matt Sewell.
In a note about his illustrations Sewell reminds readers that rather than imagining them as big lizards with muddy-brown or dull green scales, palaeontologists now think that many dinosaurs may have been colourful creatures, some even feathered,. This is reflected in his illustrations herein. Did you know for instance that Yutyrannus, a relation of Tyrannosaurus rex, discovered in 2012 had a complete covering of feathers?

Accompanying each one is a paragraph or two of factual information into which the author injects not only occasional surprises but gentle humour too.
I was fascinated to learn that the ‘teenage’ Pachycephalosaurus, termed ‘Stygimoloch’ aka ‘the horned devil from the river of death’ lost its horns in adulthood.

Splendid to look at – I love the large images set against a plain white background – and likely to have a wide age appeal.

Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures
Emily Hawkins and Lucy Letherland
Wide Eyed Editions

This enormous volume – a veritable prehistoric journey of discovery – comes from the team behind Atlas of Adventures.
Herein, through a series of maps

and large colourful dino-inhabited scenes, readers are taken, one continent after another, on a world tour of the various different land regions over different eras, up to the late Cretaceous period when the creatures died out. This was due, it’s thought, to a massive meteorite colliding with Earth resulting in mass extinction that effectively ‘wiped out most of life on Earth.’
Thirty-one dinosaurs (or prehistoric reptiles) are featured (frequently hunter and hunted) but many others are also named and given brief descriptions in the richly coloured scenes within which they’re shown.

Various aspects of dinosaur life, including birth, learning to fly (that’s baby Pteranodons – ‘cousins of the dinosaurs’), to being killed by predators are included and each spread, in addition to the large descriptive paragraph, and the mini info-bank for each creature featured, is littered with relevant, and often memorable, facts. What child is likely to forget that ‘the ‘massive droppings of T-Rex were as long as a human arm and weighed the same as a 6-month-old baby’?
I’m less keen though on some of the visual humour. For instance the Leaellynasaurus (Australian) sporting a striped scarf and bobble hat; or the Oviraptors in what is now Mongolia, wielding what looks like a butterfly net, while perhaps appealing to dinosaur-mad children, to me seemed a tad too frivolous.
Nonetheless, this is a bumper feast of dino-info. and a novel way of presenting same. It’s likely to appeal widely: I certainly learned a fair bit from it.

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission / Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase / Animazes

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission
Sophie Guerrive
Wide Eyed Editions
In his plane, which looks more like an inflatable toy than anything capable of carrying a dinosaur, famous Dinosaur Detective sets forth on a mission: to find five missing items as requested by the likes of a dog, a princess, a teacher and a distraught wife, hidden somewhere in eleven different locations including what looks like a Medieval European village, an underground cave network, atop a mountain,

a funfair, a forest, a completely crazy-looking outer space neighbourhood and a city.

It’s difficult to know where to start each search as your eyes keep getting drawn to features of interest – mine did anyway – and some of the spreads are so densely packed, it’s mindboggling, and easy to get absorbed in the surreal nature of the whole thing rather than the task in hand. It’s just as well there’s an answer spread at the end.
Dinosaur Detective’s plane transforms into a kind of tank (to find the missing toad) and a flying saucer – another fun feature.

Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase
Lomp
Little Tiger Press
Herein we meet natural history explorers Wilfred and Olbert and follow them on a quest to discover a new animal and thus win the coveted Nature Discovery Prize. And when an unidentified butterfly just happens to float through the window, they decide their chance has come. Off they go in hot pursuit but who will be the one to claim the prize?
Their journey has them dashing through forests, diving into oceans, crossing deserts, and wild grasslands,

scaling mountains and delving into tropical jungles …

as they battle to reach the butterfly first.
In the end teamwork wins out and mission complete, they claim their trophy.
The whole adventure is perilous and it’s something of a task to keep track of the two competitors and their antics en route – almost being the next meal of a lion, or being engulfed by ice, for instance – but the whole crazy drama is totally engaging, full of funny moments, things to search for, and of course, wild animals.
Wild too are Lomp’s hilarious, cartoon-like illustrations, full of daft doings and silly speech bubbles making every spread a treat to linger over.
Action-packed they surely are!

Animazes
illustrated by Melissa Castrillión
Big Picture Press
This unusual book of mazes follows the journeys of fourteen animal migrants from Antarctic krill and Monarch butterflies to Humpback whales and Mali elephants.
For some of these creatures such as reindeer, finding food is the reason for their journey; for others, such as Rockhopper Penguins, it’s to seek a suitable environment for the survival of the next generation.
In tracing their journeys, the aim is to discover the one safe path for each animal and in so doing, readers will discover a host of fascinating facts about the creature. Did you know for instance that Mali elephants all pass through one narrow passage, The Porte des Éléphants on their migratory travels? Or that Wildebeest participate in the largest mass migration of mammals on earth?

It’s Katie Howarth who provides these and the other interesting snippets of information that support Melissa Castrillión’s intricately detailed illustrations through which the mazes are woven.
Absorbing, fun and educational.

Spot the Mistake : Lands of Long Ago

Spot the Mistake: Lands of Long Ago
Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Frances Castle
Wide Eyed Editions
Many children love to point out the mistakes made by adults. This large book capitalises on this, giving them the opportunity to search Frances Castle’s ten historic scenes to identify the 20 impossible elements that have found their way into each one, as they accompany two young detectives who are on the hunt for those visual errors.
Their first visit is right back to the Stone Age or more precisely around 12,000 years back to the Late Stone Age when humans started living in communities, building permanent homes, growing crops and keeping animals.
From there the questers move forward to 5,000 years back and the Land of the Pharaohs.

The double page scene is followed by another about the same location and provides reasons for the 20 visual anomalies as well as facts about what the ancient Egyptians would have had instead. This pattern, spot the mistakes followed by information spread, is used for each stop throughout the entire time travelling adventure.
Other scenarios are ‘An Outing to the Acropolis’, ‘The Emperor’s Palace’ in ancient China; ‘Life in Ancient Rome’; ‘At the Temple of the Sun’ – the Mayan Empire;

Sailing with the Vikings’; ‘Jousting with the Knights’; ‘The (Mughal) Emperor’s Parade’; and finally, there’s a beach location for ‘Pirates Ahoy!’.
Frances Castle’s aptly bordered, alluring scenes have an ironical, lightheartedness about them that is just right for this time-travelling investigation. I envisage groups of children captivated as they play visual detective together.

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Ella Queen of Jazz / The School of Music

Ella Queen of Jazz
Helen Hancocks
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
A super-stylish biographical story of the friendship between two iconic women: Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. It tells how rising star, Ella and her ‘Fellas’ experienced racial prejudice on the part of some club owners.

This treatment dented her confidence, but only temporarily, thanks to the magic of her music and the intervention of one very special woman who secretly used her powers of persuasion to get Ella an invitation to perform at the ‘biggest joint in town’, (The Mocambo,) the very same nightclub that had turned her away before.
And so it was that, just as her secret friend had predicted, Ella Fitzgerald became a huge hit with the audience

and subsequent shows drew in enormous, enthusiastic crowds for every performance, in part thanks to Marilyn Monroe’s presence. Like all good things though, this show had to come to an end; but Ella’s sadness was more than compensated for by the lasting friendship between herself and Marilyn .

Thanks to Marilyn too, Ella became a great film singer and even sang for the US president, eventually earning the name of ‘First Lady of Song – the Queen of Jazz’ and winning thirteen Grammys and many other awards.
Enormously empowering and pitch perfect for KS1 readers is this slice of 1950’s Hollywood razzle-dazzle.

Jazz is just one of the many music genres featured in another stylish presentation:

The School of Music
Meurig & Rachel Bowen and Daniel Frost
Wide Eyed Editions
Readers are invited to enrol in the School of Music for a course of 40 lessons, presented over three terms. First we meet ‘The Boss’ aka Sergio Trunk aka, The Maestro, convincingly putting the case for having music in your life and explaining his role as Head of School. Next we meet other faculty members, six talented professors including the percussionist, Roxy Moto …

Now let lessons commence:
During the first term, there’s an introduction to a variety of musical instruments and a wide range of music.
Term two comprises a look at the essentials of melody, harmony, pitch and rhythm; and musical notation is explained in terms understandable to anyone, even those without any musical knowledge.

Students who make it through to Term 3 – and one hopes that’s everyone (no exams here), the final nine lessons encompass ways to enjoy the practical aspects of music. There’s a lesson on making music at home, another on singing and its benefits, and a brief consideration of which instrument to learn. Then comes the nitty gritty ‘Why do we have to practise?, followed by helpful ideas for combatting nerves and more. Many of the lessons have a practical activity for additional enrichment and enjoyment. There is even a QR code at the back of the book with which to stream  samples  of music to your phone or tablet.
I learned more from reading this, than I did during all my music lessons at grammar school (albeit only taken for the first four years and during which I spent a lot of time mucking around as the teacher was so boring). Meuirig and Rachel Bowen are infinitely better teachers and their lessons are made more accessible and further enlivened through Daniel Frost’s witty, contemporary illustrations.
Thoroughly recommended for KS2 readers at home or school.

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Labyrinth / Amazed / Pierre the Maze Detective Sticker Book

Labyrinth
Théo Guignard
Wide Eyed Editions
All manner of unlikely mazes – 14 in all – and each more challenging than the one before, are found in this vibrantly coloured book. Within each of the digitally designed spreads are things to search for, hiding in full sight, among the busy graphics. You can discover a smiling crocodile, a flying carpet, a bowler-hatted worm (not on the worm page), dark waters containing crabs in all the colours of the rainbow, cityscapes, a dragon’s lair,

mind-boggling geometry and a beach littered with sunbathers and much more as your fingers are drawn to follow the tracks across the spreads. This is just the thing to bridge the books and on-screen games divide.
as is:

Amazed
Aleksandra Artymowska
Laurence King Publishing
Herein the aim is to help a lost boy navigate ten mazes to reach his waiting friends.
He sets off through pouring rain, down into a strange cavern full of origami fish, stars, birds and other creatures, fossils, gemstones and ladders towards a door into a world of trees. The trees too are bedecked with origami birds and there are planks, ladders and bridges to negotiate.

The exit door leads into a labyrinth world of pipes and machinery and yet more origami birds. Mesa-like rock formations are his next playground and from there another door takes him to a sculptured rock world with paper darts and whizzing birds once more present.
Next comes a boat-filled lake; then a world of rocks and ladders from where he enters cliff-like terraces festooned with prickly cacti. The next challenge is to cross a stepping-stone strewn desert.
A precarious, sky-high wooden scaffolded structure seemingly supporting chunks of rock needs to be navigated next,

from which the only escape is via a long, long ladder on which to descend. Happily, there at the bottom his friends are waiting and we discover that they are, seemingly, the source of all those origami creations that have festooned the landscapes of his travels.

Aleksandra Artymowska’s colour palette of pale greens, blues, purples and greys give the whole thing an other-worldly feel. A magical experience for all ages.

Pierre The Maze Detective: The Sticker Book
Hiro Kamigaki & IC4 Design
Laurence King Publishing
This is based on The Search for the Stolen Maze Stone book. Herein Pierre has a picture wall and he needs help from his readers to fill it.
With more than 800 stickers, and five scenes there is plenty to keep maze lovers engaged for hours.

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The Story of Space / 100 Steps for Science

The Story of Space
Catherine Barr, Steve Williams and Amy Husband
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Subtitled ‘A first book about our universe’ this follow-up to The Story of Life is an equally fascinating exploration of another ‘big’ topic: what is thought to have happened 13.8 billion yeas ago when the Big Bang created our universe; and what followed in space thereafter going right up to the present time …

even projecting future possibilities. We’re told how the sun came into being; how, over billions of years, stars ‘are born, grow old and die’; how the planets – and hence our solar system – were formed. As well as that, there is a spread on comets and asteroids; another on how/why the seasons vary in different parts of the Earth; and one looking at oxygen and how it supports life.

This awesome journey is taken in the company of two young space investigators who comment and ask questions alongside the authors’ main narrative. Both Barr and Williams have a science background and manage perfectly, to avoid talking down to primary school aged readers. Amy Husband’s vibrant illustrations have an exuberance about them, making the whole book all the more inviting for the target audience.
I’d most certainly add this to a home collection or primary class library.
The same is true of:

100 Steps for Science
Lisa Jane Gillespie and Yukai Du
Wide Eyed Editions
Ten STEM topics are explored in this fascinating book (written by a doctor of chemistry), that offers thoroughly digestible, bite-sized introductions to Space, Wheels, Numbers, Light, Sound, Particles, Medicine, Materials, Energy, and Life.
Each one is allocated several spreads wherein its evolutionary story is explored and the key scientists are introduced. In this way, what might for some, seem formidable topics, are given a human element making them more easily engaged with and intriguing. Add to that Yukai Du’s detailed visuals, which include some amazing perspectives …

and science becomes exciting for everyone.

I’ve signed the charter 

Sleeping Bunnies / My First Books/ Picky Eaters

Sleeping Bunnies
Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
The latest Sing along with me title is a favourite with almost every nursery child I’ve encountered; they just love to sing and act out this one. This beautifully illustrated version of the song offers the opportunity to have some book-related singing and manipulative play, lifting the sunshade over the bunny crib and making the sun rise at the same time, in time to hear the ‘merry tune’ from the animal trio that pop up from behind the fence to play to the baby bunnies.

These furry infants are reluctant wakers; ‘Are they ill? Oh so still!’ Oh no! Off they go, hop, hop, hopping till it’s time to stop. Yipee! Delight from cover to cover and if this doesn’t get your sleeping bunny hopping, then scan the QR code on the cover and play it nice and loud …
Books such as these can have another use too: once a child has learned the words by heart, they can return at a later stage and begin to match the words in their head with those on the page – one way into beginning reading.

My First Words
My First Colours and Shapes
My First Animals

Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions
Finnish artist, Metsola has clearly used her background in printing and design to create these three stylish, invitingly interactive board book additions to the Learning Garden series. Each has seven brightly coloured spreads with ten named items per spread; My First Words encompasses items of clothing and a set of hangers, modes of transport; play-related things; Snacktime goodies and a spoon; and things related to the outdoors.
The two final spreads are devoted to Dinnertime and Bedtime.
There’s a related question to discuss on every spread (some more open than others) and an abundance of pattern throughout each book.
My First Shapes and Colours begins with the three primary colours, followed by green, purple and orange, with a final spread of shapes …

My First Animals (my favourite I think, because there’s a slight quirkiness about the animals’ shapes) has a plethora of creatures small and large. The garden,

pond, ocean, jungle, farm, polar regions and savannah are the habitats of the chosen animals; here I think a few of the questions were not so carefully considered: ‘… which animal is the tallest?’ we’re asked. The correct answer relies on knowledge rather than observation of what’s presented on the spread –the giraffe shown is not taller than say, the cheetah, for instance.
There’s rich language learning potential within each book, far beyond the mere naming of the labelled images depicted.

Picky Eaters
Ellen Jackson and Amy-Clare Barden
Sterling Children’s Books
As this playful, rhyming board book demonstrates, picky eaters don’t just come in human form. Creatures large and small, from koalas to caterpillars, turtles to turkeys and honeybees to giant whales are also very choosy about their dietary intake. Their favourite fare, and that of the other animals herein, is revealed by lifting the various flaps, two per double spread.

Fun learning for tiny hands.

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Wonderful Wildlife

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It Starts With a Seed
Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber
Words & Pictures
Sometimes I open a parcel and just know I’m going to love a book before I’ve even got inside the cover. Such a one is this and as the title says It Starts With a Seed – a sycamore seed.
In this gorgeous book Laura Knowles’ rhyming narrative takes us on a journey – a journey through days, weeks, months, seasons and years as we follow the growth of that seed from the time it falls to earth right through until it’s a mature tree – fully formed with its own ecosystem. Jenny Webber’s delicate, detailed illustrations show every stage of the tree’s development from seedling …

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to sapling to the ‘leaf-laden, bark-bound arboreal home’ to the plethora of insects, birds and mammals that live therein.

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What I love so much about this book though is the sense of awe and wonder it’s likely to engender in those who read or listen to its lyrical words and pore over its painterly portrayals of the natural world. Such a superb way to embody a fair amount of information and the whole narrative is presented again on the front of a gatefold finale that opens to show seasonal changes to the leaf and flower and provide additional information such as ‘A sycamore’s small flowers grown in clusters known as racemes’ and ‘A sycamore can grow 35 metres tall’ – wow! And all from one tiny seed.
A book to buy and to keep, a book to share and a book to give: it’s perfect for autumnal reading but equally, it’s one to be returned to often, at home or in the classroom.
Laura Knowles has also has co-written

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British Wildlife
Matthew Morgan & Laura Knowles
QED
Essentially this is a visual introduction to some of the riches of the natural world to be found in the British Isles from frogs to fruits …

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and fishes to fungi.

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Illuminature
Rachel Williams and Carnovsky
Wide Eyed Editions
This is an awesome look at over 180 animals and the plethora of plants that inhabit ten of the world’s very different environments from the Congo Rainforest to Loch Lomond and from the Californian Redwood Forest to the Ganges River Basin.

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Awesome because, thanks to the three-coloured lens (included in a pocket at the front of the book) readers are able to get three different views. Look through the red lens and you see the diurnal animals, the blue lens will show nocturnal and crepuscular creatures and the green lens reveals each habitat’s plant life.
Each habitat is allocated six pages – two ‘viewing’ spreads, one giving key facts about the place and a textless “observation deck’ …

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followed by a black and white one –

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a ‘species guide’ that provides more detailed information on the particular animals featured in the coloured scenes. I foresee squabbles arising over this one.

Botanicum & Destination: Space – Awesome Information Books

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Botanicum
Katie Scott and Kathy Willis
Big Picture Press
I was fortunate to spend a year working in the Kew Herbarium in a kind of gap year after science A-levels and have retained an interest in Botany ever since. It was like being in another world and so I was especially interested to receive a copy of this large, lavishly produced book for review.
Published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it is essentially, a guide to the world’s flora, illustrated by Katie Scott (who also illustrated Animalium) with text from co-curator, Professor Kathy Willis (Kew’s Director of Science).
Before entering the seven galleries we’re given a wonderful introductory spread of the different types of plants that sets the scene for the whole thing …

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Gallery 1 contains the most primitive plants in habitants of the Carboniferous Forests: from single celled diatoms

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Algae

to ferns.
Trees (and shrubs) comprise gallery 2 and from there we move to Palms and Cycads, Herbaceous Plants,

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Wild Flowers

then Grasses, Cattails, Sedges and Rushes; followed by Orchids and Bromeliads in Gallery 6 and the final section looks at Adapting to Environments.
The detailed illustrations are superb – look at these pitcher plants …

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and the variety of page layout adds extra visual interest as the thick pages are turned and we gaze transfixed at some hundred colour spreads that provide a veritable visual feast.

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Each entry is numbered and factual snippets are provided in a key. I’m pleased to see the Latin names are used – I often find these coming to mind more easily than the common ones, but I guess that’s my botanical background.

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There’s something to interest everyone from primary school browser and information seeker to adult reader as the text ranges between chatty – in reference to the giant sequoia ‘it takes sixteen adults holding hands to reach around one‘ to the more challenging (of lichens): ‘They are a collaboration between a fungal element and photosynthesising algae.’ Having said that, I know that children at least, are able to absorb challenging vocabulary in context.
A terrific collaboration and a fine volume to accompany Animalium.

Information-hungry youngsters should find much to interest in:

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Destination: Space
Dr Christoph Englert and Tom Clohosy Cole
Wide Eyed Editions
Herein readers can join five astronauts and embark on a journey of discovery through our Solar System to galaxies beyond. During the course of the mind-boggling journey, they can find out about such topics as ‘Stars’,’Earth’s Cycles‘ …

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‘Black Holes’, ‘The Solar System’ and ‘Earth and its Magnetic Field’ . They can read about telescopes ancient and modern …

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Unmanned Space Exploration’ that uses probes and contemplate ‘Life on Other Planets’. Each of these (and other fascinating subjects) is given a large, mostly visual double spread illustration by Tom Clohosy Cole onto which is superimposed an introductory paragraph and other snippets of information from lecturer in astronomy and physics, Dr Christoph Englert.
The grand finale is a fold-out page that when open becomes a large, double-sided poster.
Just the thing for a topic on space in the primary school or for interested individuals.

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Natural World

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Curiositree Natural World
Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Owen Davey
Wide Eyed Editions
This is a weighty tome chock full of wonder: ‘ Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature’ is how it’s billed and it most definitely is: essentially, almost a visit to the Natural History Museum in a book.
And what better way to begin than with this Albert Einstein quotation: “I HAVE NO SPECIAL TALENTS. I AM ONLY PASSIONATELY CURIOUS.” That sets the scene for an amazing investigative odyssey based on sixty-seven colour-coded wall charts. This is indicative of the subject matter: yellow informs about habitats; orange focuses on particular plant or animal species; blue charts look at animal behaviour or adaptations. The first spread introduces the seven characteristics of all living things be they animal or plant.

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This is followed by a look at the classification of organisms with an example of the Grey Wolf broken down into the seven levels from kingdom through to species.

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There is a natural flow through the chart topics: groups lead into habitats, and thence into ‘The fight for Survival’. Thereafter a loose logical organisational path is followed: Life in Tropical Rainforests leads to ‘Who Lives Here?’ (yes, there are specific questions for consideration every so often), followed by a close look at one specific rare creature, The Curious Aye-Aye.

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Then follows a look at ‘Living in the Dark

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Insects have always held a particular fascination for me so I flipped through and came upon a spread entitled Interesting Insects:

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after which came – entirely logically – this one:

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followed by Life in the Honeybee Hive.
Most spreads are landscape though an occasional one has a portrait orientation like here in On Top of the World:

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that allows the animals found at different levels from forest floor to Snow Zone to be shown to greater effect.
In the final spread, The Changing Planet, the mood shifts from celebratory to solemn as we see a polluted landscape with belching chimneys, aircraft and much more, harming air, land and water and threatening the survival of a whole host of species, plant and animal. It’s up to we humans – Homo Sapiens (wise man) to take responsibility and protect our precious planet for those who come after: a compelling message we ignore at our peril.
Owen Daveys’ art work is stupendous: a fusion of retro-style and ultra mod. computer graphics that is perfect for this book.
Every possible consideration is given to design, right down to the dust jacket which, when removed opens out into a large poster to display on your wall. There are even three marker ribbons, one orange, one yellow and one blue, in keeping with the colour-coding of the charts.
A must buy for the family bookshelf, the school or college library; in fact for any organisation that cares about life and the interconnectedness of everything.
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Patterns, Colours & Cars

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Pattern-Tastic Treasure Hunt
Technicolour Treasure Hunt
illustrated by Nan Na Hvass and Sophie Hannibal
Wide Eyed Editions
If you want to get young children observing, talking and thinking, then these two large format board books are superb. Cleverly designed with tabs down the side and chock-full of exciting things from the natural world, they’re certain to generate discussion and excitement. Pattern-Tastic focuses on flora and fauna that are spotty…

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stripy, spiky, speckled, have a spiral design or are wavy in some way …

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All superb examples of Mother Nature, designer.
Strikingly illustrated and full of counting opportunities too, there’s an invitation on every spread to find the odd one out –whose design breaks the theme.
Technicolour Treasure Hunt gives a spread to each of the primary colours plus pink, green, orange and purple. Each asks youngsters to find the ten named items of the particular colour,

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listing them opposite the question, ‘Can you find all of these eg. red things

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All Kinds of Cars
Carl Johanson
Flying Eye Books
Swedish artist Johanson take an every day item, the car, and puts a whole new spin on it in what is essentially a visual vehicular catalogue. Letting his imagination run riot, Johanson’ s opening spreads are entirely crazy offerings ranging from a ‘marmalade’ car to a blubbery looking ‘obese’ car on the first; then turn the page and we have these beauties:

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I’m not sure what the raison d’être for including the ‘English bus’ here was but assuredly there are some odd passengers aboard.
Next is a spread of fire-related rescue vehicles – real not imagined this time and they’re put into an action setting as are those on the next spread – a building site in this instance.

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This pattern is repeated through the book: two spreads of imagined cars – anyone for a ‘bed’ car?

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I just love the ‘toy’ car …

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but suggest steering clear of that ‘poo’ car – imagine sitting in that PHOAW! …

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I think my very favourite has to be the ‘book’ car but that ‘Mondrian’ car rather appealed to my sense of the ridiculous.

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And so we go on: there’s a farming vehicle spread, a building site, an airport page and a city street scene complete with dog poo collecting bike! As well as further flights of fancy of the car kind. There’s also an alphabetic index and end papers that positively cry out to be coloured in.
I had to use strong persuasive tactics to get this one out of the clutches of a group of 4s to 8s (mainly boys) who got their hands on my copy. I’m sure it will generate a whole lot of creative endeavours from readers. Think of the, dare I say it, FUN you could have with this one in a primary classroom.

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The Wonder Garden

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The Wonder Garden
Kristjana S.Williams and Jenny Broom
Wide Eyed Editions
Prepare to be dazzled when you open up this sumptuous volume; it truly is a wonder to behold. Then, step through the shiny golden gate and you’re inside the wonder garden that is our planet earth and thence, explore five amazing ecosystems. First is  …

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with its superabundance of reptiles and amphibians and its plethora of beautiful birds large and small.

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Next destination is the Great Barrier Reef where we learn amongst other things, of the interdependence of coral and elaborate fish.
The Chihuahuan Desert with its hugely fluctuating temperatures is the next stop. It’s a place where harsh conditions and food scarcity make survival difficult for many of its 130 mammal and 3,000 plant species.

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The Black Forest with its tall pines (a bird haven), mountains, eight rivers and several hot springs, all of which help make a place that has a rich variety of flora and fauna is featured next.

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And the final stop is the mighty Himalayan Mountains and the only one of the locations I’ve visited and so recognize some of the animals and plants shown.

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Every one of the locations is spectacular in its own way and the overall experience is one of awe and wonder, but there’s also an almost magical feel to the whole thing. At every turn of the page Kristjana Williams presents a visual feast of insects, reptiles, birds, mammals (or marine species) set against land- (or sea-) scapes of greens and browns splashed with vibrant carmine and fuschia.
Four double spreads are given to each habitat: the first being a spectacular panoramic view jam-packed with its living inhabitants so powerful one can almost for instance, hear the croaking of tropical frogs in the Amazon Rainforest. Every location is introduced by a verbal visualization of what one might feel, see and hear on first arrival and panels containing factual information about the habitat. On the subsequent pages, filling the spaces between the stunning artwork, are blocks of text giving factual information about the habitat.
The superabundance of fauna and flora at every location means that comparatively few species get a mention and that’s fair enough in a book of this kind, though as someone with more than a passing interest in botany I would have liked some more details about the glorious flora depicted.
Assuredly a book to return to again and again and one that might well spark a lifelong interest in some aspect of the living world in the person fortunate enough to come upon this in a bookshop or library or even better, receive it as a gift.

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A Clutch of Activity Books

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of activity type books; the teacher part of me would much prefer to provide children sheets of paper, large and small and a variety of materials, some encouragement and let them create. However that’s not for everyone and I know there are some children (and definitely lots of parents) who want something much more self-contained on occasion. So, here’s a clutch of stand-out books that might be just the thing to turn to on a rainy day or when the children seem at a loss for what to do next…

 

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Let’s Go Find a Tiger!
Yasmeen Ismail
Macmillan Children’s Books
In the company of two explorers we foray deep into the jungle seeking a tiger. Tigers however are far from the only inhabitants of this lush environment: there are brightly coloured birds – particularly if you draw some as well as using the stickers provided at the back of the book, a variety of minibeasts, a snake or so …

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a lone monkey that needs feeding (you draw or stick the food and additional monkeys), and some more friends to play with (you decide what).
Further in are some animals already engaged in playful activity; they too need others to join them.
Watch out for that pond: what scary thing lives there? – It’s pretty much up to the reader …
And so the search continues: there’s an encounter with a large, friendly pachyderm, some leopards partying, birds among the branches …

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and finally or almost so – that sought-after tiger.
At the end of the book, the reader has become the co-creator of his or her own jungle story, or that’s the intention. Very young children will need an adult to read the rhythmic, sometimes rhyming text aloud before embarking on the artistic endeavours offered herein.
As always Yasmeen Ismail’s own illustrations are a delight – exuberant and playful. I suspect any youngster offered this book would delight in personalizing it in his or her unique way.

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You Are an Artist
Marta Altés
Macmillan Children’s Books
This book takes the form of a series of ‘lessons’ from an artist, THE artist from Marta Altés’ I Am An Artist picture book. The art teacher provides a drawing lesson, a lesson in looking at things creatively wherein you have to find the 10 faces, an opportunity to get colourful, another to use sticker shapes in imaginative ways (I’ve seen foundation stage children engaging in using real objects – leaves,

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flower petals, shells, pebbles, pencil shavings, scraps of paper, wood offcuts etc. in a similar fashion,

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rather than the stickers provided at the end of the narrative). Then there is a lesson on using line, another about looking for and using pattern …

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and some other fairly open-ended activities.
Not only does this book offer hours of fun but also provides the opportunity to think about, and talk about being an artist and what it entails.
I love the assertive message inherent in the title.

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Atlas of Adventure Activity Fun Pack
illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Wide Eyed Publications
Even if you’re not going far afield this holiday, you can visit all kinds of locations near and far courtesy of a companion to Lucy Letherland’s splendid Atlas of Adventure. Essentially it comprises a fair bit of colouring in (this seems to be in vogue at present), things to spot and snippets of information that are scattered throughout the various spreads. So, pens and crayons at the ready, you can ‘Go Wild in Africa’, ‘Party Around the World’, go deep sea diving and more.

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There’s also a flags of the world poster a the back of the book and stickers to embellish the map of the world on the reverse side.

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Pop this into a bag before you embark on a journey with youngsters, no matter what your destination.

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Making Faces!
Jacky Bahbout and Momoko Kudo
Thames & Hudson
With a large die-cut circle through each of the 32 tear-out pages of this book/pad children are provided with a whole host of possibilities to be inventive with mark-making materials, offcuts of paper/fabric, wool, glue and other bits and pieces. Then by peering through the central hole, they can become the star (human or animal) of their own playful scenarios

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with sound effects as suggested on some of the pages, though there isn’t always much room for embellishment around the face hole.
The paper used feels like artists’ paper and the wide variety of topics such as ‘Let’s Space Walk’ or ‘I Love Spiders’ included should offer something to interest most young children.

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Look, Do, Discover

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How Things Work
Thames and Hudson
This large-sized book is a veritable treasure trove of ideas scientific, all using things that are likely to be found in the immediate environment as a starting point for investigation.
We join friends Koko and Alex – the former a deconstructionist fascinated by how things work, the latter a would-be machine builder. We also meet a trio of explorers who act as commentator, questioner and thought provoker, throughout. Starting with How to build a house, our explorers take readers through the process step by step introducing the various materials used. Then we move on to a spread that looks at all kinds of homes and there’s an invitation to play I Spy.

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Back we go next to learn about water and electricity and how not to waste these vital resources in the home.
There’s a materials game to play followed by some playful ‘Can you?’ scenarios to consider such as a paper hammer or wooden specs.

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There’s also a great “How is it made? section about book making from author’s ideas to finished product, followed by instructions on making a concertina book – budding authors/illustrators take note. I could go on but suffice it to say other topics include ‘What is a machine?’ and spin off activities, shadow play and other light-related activities, a look at other power sources and …
As a teacher I’m always encouraging children to ask ‘how?’, ‘why? And ‘what?’ questions and equally they love to do so and then discover answers to their queries. Billed as ‘Facts and fun/Questions and answers/ Things to make and do’,

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this volume, in addition to being a fun introduction to a host of science concepts, is an ideal starting point for enquiring minds.
The illustrations – a mix of seemingly, simple child-like art and photographs –

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are plentiful, amusing, involving and show great attention to detail.
A stonkingly good book all round either for home enjoyment or the primary classroom.

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Creatures Great and Small
Lucy Engelman illustrator
Wide Eyed Editions
Is it a colouring book? Is it a field guide? Actually, this one is more like a sketchpad with thick card backboard and tear-out pages containing thirty five prints of members of the animal kingdom from all over the world is both. Some 250 species in all are featured and these are divided into groups, each one having a page print to colour. So for example there are pages of large mammals, Marine Mammals for instance or Primates as well as Frogs, Toads or Bugs, Beetles and Bees.
The limited space available dictates that only a snippet of information can be given about each creature on the colouring page,

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with further details provided (by Valerie Davies) on the back key page. This includes information on the colour and pattern of each animal drawn.
This is certainly not a book for the very young; rather it will appeal to older readers (child and adult) who like information rendered visually rather in lots of words. There is assuredly plenty to keep anyone gainfully occupied and may very well send readers off to research and find other sources of information although completing the pictures can equally well be an end in itself.

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Play and Learn

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Colours/Counting
Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions
Young children acquire concepts relating to colour and numbers from their life experiences, not from books, but if these experiences include encounters with this pair of super-stylish, sophisticated concept board books with flaps to lift on every page, so much the better. They will certainly help to develop those all important concepts in a playful, interactive way.
Colours has spreads for the three primary colours plus orange, green, pink and purple with the images cleverly placed on backgrounds of black, white or grey thus adding another three to the total palette. And, each captioned colour page has an interloper in the form of a different coloured object that has somehow found its way there, along with a question inviting readers to spot say, ‘Which thing isn’t orange?

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The range of objects goes from the familiar such as hat to the less likely ‘hummingbird, aubergine and lavender or from ball and bird to blue whale.

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Numbers 1 to 10 are included in Counting but this is no straightforward counting book with the numeral and simply the appropriate number of items on the page. Rather we have something more complex such as

 

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And, from 4 on each number has its own spread …

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Totally involving books whether or not the user is at the stage of beginning to develop the particular concepts presented.

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My First Colours
illustrated by Maxine Davenport and Cindy Roberts
Autumn Publishing
This is one of the new ‘Bilingual Baby’ series for the very youngest that takes a basic concept and presents it in two languages and bold, bright images.
Ten objects are attractively illustrated and captioned and each is positioned on a flap, which, when opened, reveals – in this case – French caption and pronunciation.

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Certainly this little book invites interaction and exploration though I’m not completely convinced the board book format is appropriate for the content.

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Look, Talk, Do …

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One Thousand Things
Anna Kövecses
Wide Eyed Editions
There is a synergy of contemporary and retro feel about this vocabulary-developing book. Little Mouse has helpfully divided it into seven sections and invites participant toddlers to spot her in every scene of the thematic organization that begins with First Things to Learn. This includes spreads of shapes, colours, numerals and counters to 10, some opposites and times of the day. In Things in nature there’s a spread of tasty-looking fruit,

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another of equally mouth-watering vegetables, three of animals in different habitats and one of extinct creatures. Things you can do includes both outdoor and indoor activities and some to aspire to, desirable everyday ones

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and the two final sections look at objects inside your house – everyday things in different rooms and lastly, Things outside your house such as vehicles, buildings and natural features.
The final spread asks us to imagine, and shows pictorially, 1,000.
Absorbing and fun for the very young to share with an adult or older child: I like everything about this one including its smell and feel.

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Stephen Biesty’s To the Rescue
Rod Green and Stephen Biesty
Templar Publishing
Biesty has selected eight vehicles from different parts of the world that carry out rescue operations by land, sea and air to be the subjects of his latest info-graphic picture book. Given the close-up treatment herein are a Hi-Tech Police Car, a Fire Truck,

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a Flying Firefighter, a Submarine Rescue vehicle (part of a NATO Submarine Rescue System), a Giant Fireboat, the Agusta Westland AW139 Air Ambulance, a 27 Tamar lifeboat and an ambulance.
As with the earlier, Giant Vehicles, a plethora of facts written by Rod Green surround each of Biesty’s amazingly detailed pen/ink and watercolour washed illustrations, and there are numerous flaps (engineered by Andy Mansfield) under which more information is to be found.
It’s a good job that this book is sturdily built: I envisage it being read to destruction having provided countless hours of fascination to child (and perhaps adult) readers. Assuredly, a great way to interest young readers in applied science/ technology: My only quibble is an almost total absence of female personel; I know many girls who aspire to such roles as piloting a plane or driving a fire truck.

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The Odd One Out
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
This is actually a cardboard wallet containing fifteen gorgeous animal postcards of artwork that featured in the book of the same name by one of my favourite contemporary-style artists. Spot the surprise on every page – some are easier to find than others – have fun.
I would find it almost impossible to part with any of the postcards, which presumably are intended for sending.

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Zip It
Patricia Hegarty and Fhiona Galloway
Little Tiger Kids
Subtitled ‘A fancy book of fastenings’ this largish board book is indeed that. Herein we have a frog with a zip mouth to open and shut, a pig with a button nose, a duck with a Velcro fastened down wing that lifts to reveal a small duckling hidden beneath, Kitty with a popper collar to ‘Pop’ and ‘snap’ and finally two squeaking mice whose tails are tied in a bow. In addition to developing their fine motor skills small children can enjoy listening to the simple rhyming text with its carefully chosen words including animal sounds and action words.

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Wild Life Wonders

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Creaturepedia
Adrienne Barman
Wide Eyed Editions
This large volume is a superb visual treat and exemplification of nature as designer, illustrating six hundred or so animals large and small, real and imagined. These are divided into categories such as The architects, The champion breath-holders, The big mouths, The masters of camouflage,

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The pretty-in-pinks, The prickly ones, The mythical, The vanished, The showoffs, which cut across class barriers so that fish, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles etc. may be grouped together under a single heading. Every animal is captioned, with many having a short information snippet. A fair few of the animal names may be unfamiliar (unless of course you happen to be a zoology specialist); the likes of binturong, kakapo or Cory’s shearwater – what deliciously strange sounding creatures – are likely to send you off on further explorations, on line or in other books, of the animal kingdom.
There is humour, both verbal – the Tiger,

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Orca, Little owl and Montagu’s harrier are among ‘The munch-it-uppers’ and visual – I love the way The sprinters are shown (or rather not shown)

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for example and The big-eared beasts surely cannot fail to make you smile.

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Highly recommended for the family bookshelf, for primary and secondary school libraries, art departments and of course, science departments, in colleges.

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Nature’s Day
Kay Maguire and Danielle Kroll
Wide Eyed Editions
In this stylishly illustrated book we visit eight different locations – the garden, the vegetable patch, the woods, the farm, the fields, the pond, the orchard and the street.

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Starting in the spring, each place in turn is visited and then revisited during summer, autumn and winter chronicling the seasonal changes to the flora and fauna of the specific natural environment.
There is a seasonal narrative running throughout the whole which describes what is happening, gently urging us to stop, look and listen and then each location also has an introductory paragraph as well as interwoven with the illustrations, more specific information about for instance, bird song in the spring garden.

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The author realistically points out that in addition to the buzzing of bees and the birdsong of the richly coloured summer garden, one is likely to hear – on account of the speed that the grass grows – the weekly hum of a lawnmower.

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My slight reservation with this otherwise excellent book is that although beautifully painted, some of the birds and animals have only a passing resemblance to the species referred to in the text. Nevertheless it is certain to make you get outside and enjoy the natural world all year round, no matter where you live.

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