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

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:

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.

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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


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 …


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


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


British Wildlife
Matthew Morgan & Laura Knowles
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 …


and fishes to fungi.


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.


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’ …


followed by a black and white one –


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


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 …


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



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


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 …


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.


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.


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:


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‘ …


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


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.


Natural World


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.


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.


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.


Then follows a look at ‘Living in the Dark


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


after which came – entirely logically – this one:


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:


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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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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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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