What On Earth? Birds / Do Sharks Glow in the Dark?/ Do Tigers Stay Up Late?


What On Earth? Birds

Mike Unwin and Pau Morgan
QED

Natural history writer Mike Unwin and illustrator Pau Morgan turn their attention to birds for the latest book in this excellent What On Earth? series.

In its usual way it’s packed with information and practical ideas that include things to make and do including the occasional experiment, all presented in a highly visual manner with every spread using the space alluringly in a manner somewhat akin to a comic.

As well as bird facts there are poems (Tennyson’s The Eagle and Lear’s There was an old man with a beard’) along with an invitation to readers to write a bird poem of their own. On the literary side too is ‘The king of the birds’ a story based on an old Celtic folk tale, which might also inspire story writing by readers.

You may want to try dancing like a bird;

or perhaps get outdoors and listen to some birdsong, even catching the dawn chorus if you’re up early enough.

The book is divided into four sections: What is a bird?; Bird food; Bird life and behaviour and Enjoying birds, and very page turn brings something to excite, or fascinate young readers.

Offering a great way to discover things avian in all kinds of interesting ways, the book concludes with a glossary and an index.

Do Sharks Glow in the Dark?
Do Tigers Stay Up Late?

Mary Kay Carson
Sterling

Splendid photographs and sequences of facts in response to a series of introductory questions – one per page (or occasionally spread) – present the essentials relating to two very different, but both predatory, animals.

No, sharks do not have bones; their skeletons are cartilaginous (a fact I remember well from my early days of studying zoology); and they have both skin and scales. Did you know people once used dried sharkskin as sandpaper? Or that adult sharks ‘don’t do the parenting thing’? Rather shark pups look after themselves.

And contrary to popular belief, only around six humans are killed by sharks in a year.

So it is with tigers: these creatures tend to avoid humans, their towns and farms, although it’s humans that are responsible for tigers being endangered with less than 4,000 roaming wild now, more than half their number being found in India.

I was fascinated to read that no two tigers have identical skin stripes, that a tiger’s skin is striped as well as its fur, and that tigers can swim for miles.

Unsurprisingly tigers don’t purr, growling, grunting and roaring are their ways of communicating.

Both books offer a fun and easy way to get to know something about two of the world’s most iconic creatures; and each has as part of the back matter, information about helping to protect the animals in question, some useful related vocabulary and an index.

Mind Your Manners

Mind Your Manners
Nicola Edwards and Feronia Parker-Thomas
Caterpillar Books

The creatures in this junglee tale need a lesson or two in minding their Ps and Qs and that is exactly what they get in Nicola Edwards’ rhyming advocacy for politeness and good manners. After all, if they’re all to live together in peace and harmony they need to listen to the wise words of advice offered herein.
Snatching pandas need to say a polite “please” while ungrateful tigers should always offer a pleasant “thank you” when they receive a gift or an act of kindness.
“Excuse me” is required vocabulary for stomping, clomping pachyderms, whereas ‘sorry’ is thus far lacking in the snake’s speech.

Not invading another’s space is also strongly advised, especially when that space happens to be a quiet reading spot.

Merely parroting another’s words is a definite no, no, as is dropping rubbish and thus upsetting the balance of nature. Oh my goodness these animals DO have a lot to learn.
Selfishness is thoroughly undesirable, as are disgusting food consuming habits,

as well as careless words that might hurt another’s feelings: sweet words are much, much better.

So too is knowing when it’s okay to be noisy and when quiet is the order of the day, while grouchiness and unkindness need to be replaced with warmth and sharing.

Look how much more desirable that jungle home is now that the animals are finally putting all that sound advice into practice.

Spirited scenes of animal behaviour good and bad (including that of the artist’s favourites, bears), executed in watercolour and pen, along with Nicola Edwards’ wise words delivered in rhyme; you have to get the rhythm right to share it effectively so I’d suggest a practice run first. There’s some fun alliteration concerning that silly snake and the  messy monkey to get your tongue around too.

More bears (along with foxes) grace the lovely endpapers – the front ones showing undesirable actions; the back ones, good  behaviour.

Hello Hello

Hello Hello
Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books

An exchange of hellos between a black cat and a white one sets in motion a concatenation of greetings that celebrates the world’s amazing diversity of zoological life forms, as each turn of the page leads on to something different.

First it’s the varieties of ‘Black and White’ showcasing the black cat, a black bear, a panda, a zebra and a zebrafish.
This fish starts off the colour blast on the next spread where we find …

which completes the rhyming couplet.
The salamander greets the striped and spotted animals on the following page and so it continues with more and more animals and greetings as the creatures pose and posture, display their tongues,

avort, turn upside down or strut across the pages leading into a dance of interconnectedness over the final double spread.
Wenzel uses many different media – pastels, markers, coloured pencils, cut paper collage and oils to showcase his arresting animal and human compositions.

Each of the animals portrayed has a vital role in the ecosystem it inhabits and Wenzel reminds readers of this in the final pages of the book. There is also a double spread identification guide – a cast in order of appearance –that includes information on which ones are ‘vulnerable’, ‘near threatened’, ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ species. We should get to know more about these amazing creatures and the need to protect those under threat.
As Wenzel, himself an animal enthusiast, says in his author’s note, ‘It starts with saying hello.’

A clever and artful book that celebrates both difference and what unites us, and a message about acceptance of all.
Savour, share, and discuss.

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.

The Squirrels’ Busy Year

The Squirrels’ Busy Year
Martin Jenkins and Richard Jones
Walker Books

From the creators of Fox in the Night is a new addition to the Science Storybook series, this time about the seasons and changes in the weather.

We start in winter and just like today when I’m writing this, it’s very cold, the pond is frozen and snow covers the ground. The animals are tucked away in warm places until they have to go out and search for food.

Spring brings warmer weather with bird song, croaking frogs, scampering squirrels hoping to find juicy maple buds on the trees or bulbs they can unearth; but they’ll have to be quick for there’s an owl on the prowl.
With the summer come hotter days, the need for shade, and longer hours of daylight with a chance of thundery weather.

Come autumn and the frogs have gone to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud;

many birds have flown to warmer climes and the squirrels start collecting for their winter store in preparation for hibernating.
All this is presented through an engaging, at times poetic, text, together with some basic scientific facts, and in Richard Jones’ textured illustrations.
His beautifully crafted scenes work in perfect harmony with Jenkins’ descriptions, his colour palette mirroring the seasonal hues superbly.
Look how perfectly this embodies the hushed arrival of winter’s snow …

A fine example of non-fiction for the very young.

Run, Elephant, Run

Run, Elephant Run
Patricia MacCarthy
Otter-Barry Books

As a storm gathers, lashing the vegetation of his Indonesian rainforest home and pelting down upon Little Elephant, he becomes separated from his mother.
The storm gets increasingly wild but there’s something even more fierce close by. It’s a tiger.
Little Elephant battles against the whirling, swirling elements, the creature hot on his trail. With no time to hide, Little Elephant has to run for his life through the slippery mud.

He slips and falls, whooshing pell-mell down a muddy slope right into his anxiously searching mother.
There’s only one thing to do: make as much noise as possible; so they trumpet and stamp till suddenly

the tiger turns tail and dashes away.
Eventually the storm blows itself out and with the change in the weather, the herd moves on. The weather isn’t all that’s different though: thanks to his adventure, one small pachyderm has changed on the inside. He now feels bigger and braver as he sploshes and splashes with the other elephants in the rain pool.

With its wealth of onomatopoeia this is a great book for adding sound effects during a story session. Children could use their voices, found objects or musical instruments – possibly ones they’ve made themselves – to orchestrate the reading.
First though, read the story, look closely at the superb visuals and then, using the final puzzle spread, go back through the book and search for the thirty odd rainforest creatures in the richly coloured illustrations.

10 Reasons to Love: an Elephant / a Turtle & Dolphin Baby

10 Reasons to Love an Elephant
10 Reasons to Love a Turtle

Catherine Barr and Hanako Clulow
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Two titles published in collaboration with the Natural History Museum focus on what makes the particular animal special.
Each is sandwiched between two sturdy covers with a die cut of the animal through the front one and a double spread is devoted to each reason.
I didn’t need any persuasion to love elephants mainly because of frequent encounters with the Asian variety on my numerous visits to India. (I’ve never seen any with googly eyes however.) In addition to the reason that gives each spread its title, there is plenty more to enjoy. I was fascinated to learn that elephants ‘wrap their trucks around each other in warm greetings’ and that ‘they understand how other elephants feel.’ Here for example one can see a beautiful Indian swallowtail butterfly, a common rose butterfly and a common bluebottle butterfly among the flora.

Children will I’m sure be amused to learn that forest elephants eat seeds that pass through their bodies and out in their poo, and then the seeds start growing in their dung making them “good gardeners’ for their role in seed dispersal. Equally they might, having read the ‘Show You Love an Elephant’ badge, want to look online and find how to buy some paper made from recycled elephant poo.
Ecologist, Catherine Barr’s text is very reader friendly and Hanako Clulow’s illustrations offer plenty to observe and discuss.
10 Reasons to love a Turtle features the seven different sea turtle species and interestingly, ‘gardening’ features herein too,

with sea turtles acting like ‘underwater lawn movers’ grazing on the seagrass and keeping it the appropriate length for fish, crabs and seahorses to make their homes in.
At the end of the book, readers are reminded of the threat that pollution, fishing and hunting pose to these gentle animals.
With their environmental focus, these would be worthwhile additions to classroom libraries; as well as for interested individuals, who it is hoped, might turn into conservationists.

Dolphin Baby
Nicola Davies and Brita Granström
Walker Books
‘Tail first, head last, Dolphin POPS out into the blue.’ What could be a more engaging way to start a book of narrative non-fiction? But then this is zoologist Nicola Davies writing and she knows just how to grab the attention of young readers and listeners and keep them entranced throughout.
Here, through the story of Dolphin and Mum, she describes the first six months of a baby calf’s life as it learns to feed, to acquaint itself with and respond to her call, and to explore its world playing, making friends …

and all the while he’s growing and developing his very own whistle to communicate that he has at six months old, caught his very first fish.
The text uses two fonts: the large provides the narrative with additional facts given in smaller italics; and the final spread reminds readers that dolphins need protecting from pollution, from over-fishing and from the careless use of fishing nets.
Brita Granström’s superb acrylic illustrations grace every spread helping to make the book a winner for both early years and primary school audiences.

I’ve signed the charter  

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver
Claire Freedman and Carrie May
Templar Publishing

Claire Freedman (of Aliens Love Underpants fame) has created a lilting lullaby telling how as night falls the flowing-haired weaver of dreams spreads her wings, fashions from nature and stows in her sack magical fantasies for soon to be slumbering young creatures.

For her first recipient, Little Bear …

it’s mountain flowers and snowflakes that will create a dream of playful mountain slope sliding with snow bears as companions.
Upon Little Tiger she bestows a dream of flying in space; Little Monkey’s dream is woven from: ‘Grains of sand on a distant shore/ Pink pearly shells from the ocean floor./ Long-lost treasure, a mermaid’s kiss, The shimmering scales from a rainbow fish.’ and will take him to swim with dolphins and dance to the tune of a mermaid’s song.

Her final dream is soft, white and full of love: this will be for the young child just on the edge of sleep; the child who has shared in the magical experiences of the baby jungle animals and is now, lulled by the sibilance of the rhyming text, ready for his or her own nocturnal adventure.
Debut artist Carrie May conjures up a lush nocturnal forest setting for the ethereal dreamweaver to scatter her dreams. The star-spangled dream scenes have for the most part, a somewhat softer palette of predominantly pinks, corals, turquoise, aquamarine, lemon yellow and white.
Just right for bedtime sharing or for other times when a spell of calm is required.

I’ve signed the charter  

How do you do, Mr Gnu? / What’s More Scary?

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How do you do, Mr Gnu?
Billy Coughlan and Maddie Frost
Maverick Arts Publishing
Gnu has received a royal invitation, to take tea with Her Majesty the Queen no less. First though he needs to polish up his etiquette and for this he has plenty of role models: the dogs with their polite begging “Woof” Woofs for starters and then there’s that “Caw” of raven’s: that’s definitely worth imitating especially with those spindly legs of his flapping like wings. The fish have such eloquent “Glug”s that Gnu just cannot help but try emulating those …

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Add to that the dinosaur’s “ROAR”; the refined “Neigh” of the guardsman’s horse, not to mention the raspberry blowing from a little girl (think twice Mr Gnu, before you try that one on Her Majesty. Err …

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With its wonderful, final piece de resistance, “Pfffffft” this lesson in manners is sure to have your audiences in fits. They’ll love joining Gnu in trying out the other exquisitely mannered expositions and actions of the other animals so amusingly portrayed in Maddie Frost’s hilarious scenes too. Prepare yourself for a noisy story session when you share this beauty.

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What’s More Scary?
Min Flyte and Matt Hunt
Nosy Crow
This ‘choose-the-flap’ adventure takes readers along with the little boy narrator for a jungle adventure. First though he has to pack his rucksack with the appropriate gear, (especially according to his mum, a toothbrush) and don his rosy red wellies – just the thing for a camouflaged safari walk.

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Off goes the lad along the jungle path and before long he hears some alarming sounds; seemingly he’s being followed but then comes a fork in the path: which way should he go? Crisis averted, it’s time to proceed but again the path divides and another choice needs making – or not! Well yes in a way but a spot of tree climbing is required.

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And so it goes on with a bit of dangling, followed by rowing and another fork – in the river this time, with a croc one way and piranhas the other. Next there’s a choice between a tree with a snake, or one with a grumpy gorilla, to climb; then inside a cave, our narrator, aka “Jimmy” is confronted with something with the scariest ever eyes: what could that be? The little guy has had enough of safari-ing and beats a hasty path back home: has he escaped though?
With a final choice left to the reader, Flyte and Hunt’s flap-filled foray into the wild, has plenty to engage and involve youngsters.

Charter logo FINAL.indd

Board Book Shelf 2

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Mix & Match Animal Homes
Mix & Match Colours

Lo Cole
Walker Books
Innovative design – a tiny book within a small one – is key to these two board books for the very youngest. In Animal Homes, six habitats the (African) plains, the desert, the jungle,

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the sea, the forest and the Arctic are visited with four animals per spread and a fifth is waiting to be discovered in the inset smaller book.
Colours has a spread for each of the primary colours plus green, pink and orange each of which has eight or nine brightly coloured objects both large and small (although relative sizes aren’t explored) and the inset book has the pages of the six colours which children need to match to the colours of the objects on the surrounding larger pages.

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Vocabulary development and colour concepts are the main learning opportunities offered in these playful little books.

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Where’s Mr Lion?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
A handful of wild animals – Mrs Giraffe, Mr Crocodile, Mrs Elephant and Mr Lion are the subjects to search for in this board book. With its felt flap hiding places and a final hidden mirror, toddlers will have lots of fun manipulating the flaps to reveal and missing animals which have in fact only partially managed to conceal themselves behind the various brightly coloured objects. This of course adds to the enjoyment, as does the repetitive patterned nature of the text.

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Cheep! Cheep!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
In the latest addition to the Can You Say It Too? series Sebastien Braun involves readers in a trip around the farm and surrounding area where five animals have hidden themselves behind a clump of flowers, a gate, a basket, a stable door and a clump of reeds.. Once located, toddlers can emulate the ‘Cheep! Cheep!’, ‘Baah! Baah!’ ‘Meew! Meew!’, ‘Hee-haw! Hee-haw!’ and ‘Quack! Quack!’

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of the baby animals. Involving, noisy fun made all the more so by Braun’s gently humorous visuals.

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Flora and the Chicks
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora, the balletic star from Molly Idle’s Flora and the Penguins and Flora and the Peacocks now performs in an almost wordless counting book for a younger audience. The young miss, suitably clad in her red jump suit, more than has her hands full with the nest of hatching chicks emerging one after the other. As each new chick breaks out, the book counts, the numeral being revealed when the page-sized folds are opened out, or as one turns to the next spread to follow the action,

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until finally all 10 chicks have hatched, the mother hen has her full brood and Flora sits for a well-earned rest. Then come the only words ‘The End’ aptly heralding the show is over. The tottering first steps of the chicks provide a nice contrast to Flora’s graceful swoops, lunges and stretches as she attempts to round up the fluffy yellow hatchlings. Lots of fun and deliciously re-readable.

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Walking in a Winter Wonderland
illustrated by Tim Hopgood
Oxford University Press
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?’ It’s almost impossible not to break into song on seeing those opening words to the seasonal favourite written down, and now illustrator Tim Hopgood has taken that ever-popular Christmas song (with some slight alterations) and turned it into an enchanting and truly joyful, snow-filled picture book experience for children and adults to share together.
As musical notes drift across every spread, we join a family of five walking …

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and playing …

in a woodland landscape populated by wild animals (foxes, deer, a squirrel and rabbits) and birds …

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Hopgood’s pastel and crayon scenes capture the magic of idyllic winter countryside with newly fallen snow, sledging, snowman building, and then the family snuggling up together in the warmth from a fire. I particularly love that musical note tree …

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and the endpapers too are lovely – so simple and SO effective.
To add to the delights, the book comes with a three track CD. The first track is the wonderfully jazzy rendition of the song performed by Peggy Lee, the second is a reading of the book with tinkling sounds to let you know when to turn the page, and the third a (somewhat superfluous) listening game.
A Christmas cracker.

First Snow / Brrr! Brrr!

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First Snow
Bomi Park
Chronicle Books
With impactful minimal text and a limited colour palette, debut picture book artist Park creates the magic of a first snowfall as experienced by a toddler. Said toddler dons warm outdoor gear (good on her) and creeps out into the white world beyond her front door, there to discover the joys of building a snowman. First though it seems, she must roll her ball of snow down urban streets, across a moonlit field, beside an elevated railway track – ‘Fast, fast fast’ –

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into the woods where she joins a throng of other snowman-building children. A magically uplifting moment occurs

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after which reality reasserts itself and we, and the little girl, are returned once more to her back garden and another kind of enchantment.
Go back and look once more at the details in Park’s captivating snow-filled scenes. Notice: the snowflake patterns on the child’s mits, the activities of the pup accompanying her the whole time, and the animals emerging and watching in the dark woods.

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Gorgeous! And as an added bonus, the spare text, with its built-in repetition, is such that beginning readers can, once the story’s been read to them, read those fifty odd words for themselves.
For even younger children is

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Brrr! Brrr!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
This is one of the series of lift-the-flap books for those ‘just beginning to talk’ and it certainly has a chilly feel to it. Peeking out from behind five objects –an iceberg, a boat, a cave entrance, an igloo and a clump of fir trees, each of which forms the flap, are five animals. Youngsters can enjoy a game of hide and seek in response to the sequence of ‘Who’s that … ?’ questions

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and then join in with the animal sound once it’s revealed. Sebastien Braun’s snowy scenes are a delight: I particularly like the woodland one.

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With the repeat pattern of the simple text, beginning readers can enjoy sharing this with a toddler sibling too.

Message in a Bottle

There have been several personalised books launched in the past couple of years and as far as I know this is one of the most recent. Here, established picture book author Tom Percival joins forces with Finnish book publisher/illustrator Tuire Siiriainen in a project for adults and children together and the outcome is:

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Message in a Bottle
Tom Percival and Tuire Siiriainen
Blueberry & Pie
Meet Kiki, a Scarlet Hawaiian Honeycreeper who longs for adventure. When a bottle containing a message is washed up on the shore of her island home, it seems she’s being offered an opportunity to fulfil her dearest wish, to travel and see the world beyond her own tropical environs. Kiki resolves to deliver the message – bottle and all.
Now what this message is, and who is to receive it, is where the personalised part comes in: the giver of the book presumably already having decided upon its recipient, now creates the message that Kiki finds. This can be written in English or one of the other European languages offered: French, Polish, Luxembourgish or German. The message can be one of those suggested by the publisher or composed entirely by the sender of the book.
References to the recipient and their address are made throughout the story helping to heighten the engagement as Kiki’s journey progresses. That’s getting ahead of things though, for Kiki has no idea which way even to start flying.
With assistance – or not – from a somewhat confused clackety-clawed crab …

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a whale, a grizzly bear, a plover with no sense of direction, a sailfish, a troop of monkeys who squabble over the bottle, and a wise owl, Kiki and bottle meander their way across the globe from her Pacific island via North and South America, the Atlantic, Africa and Europe to England’s shore, and finally, onto the windowsill of the recipient’s bedroom.

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For Leo, only just four, this was the climax of the book. Having been riveted throughout the story, absorbed by the vibrantly coloured, cartoon style illustrations, and excited at the references to his address and name throughout, as well as listening avidly to the message in the bottle, he was less engaged with the final part about Kiki’s return home.
Older recipients of the personalised book will I suspect, be fascinated to discover Kiki’s Kids online club where, by clicking on the interactive map, they can find out more about the fourteen animals from the story.

To order your own personalised copy of the book visit the Message in a Bottle website.

Wild Animals of the North


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Wild Animals of the North
Dieter Braun
Flying Eye Books
Magnificent art takes the forefront in an awe-inspiring introduction to an array of creatures great and small, all of which are native to the northern hemisphere. The book is divided into three regions: North America, Europe and Asia and, starting with North America, Dieter Braun takes readers on an exploration of animals of the land, sea and air: his stunning illustrations are a wonder to behold and seem to encapsulate the very essence, spirit and being of the animals portrayed. I was reminded of elements of primitive cave paintings in his rendering of the Bison

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of Dürer in his American Lobster

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and Cubism in for instance, his Polar Bear

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Moving on to Europe that glorious Grey Heron …

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brought American ornithologist and painter Audubon’s work to mind and Braun’s beautiful Roe Deer illustration seems inspired by Art Deco.

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Some pictures are left to speak for themselves with just the animal’s common and scientific names given, others have a paragraph of factual information. I found myself ‘googling’ some of the less familiar creatures – the Asian, Manul for instance -where I found the photographs of the particular animal somehow less alive than Braun’s image on the page.

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Several of my favourite portraits are among those from Asia. There’s the Red Panda …

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now an endangered species;
Black Bear, which in this gorgeous scene …

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closely resembles the large soft toy replica I once bought from the Norbulingka Institute near Dharamsala in northern India and the beautiful crested Mandarin Duck …

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familiar to me from frequent visits to Bushy Park – a favourite haunt on mine.
Children and adults alike will get great pleasure turning the pages of this large, sumptuous volume and it will surely be the inspiration to find out more about some of the eighty odd animals presented herein. However, it is not a book for those interested in things zoological only; there is much to interest art lovers as well.
Top quality is something one now almost takes for granted from Flying Eye Books: here is yet another example of how attention to detail in design ensures that their high standard is once more maintained: I cannot wait to see the companion volume Wild Animals of the South soon to be published.

Those who have an interest in birds (no matter from where) and in creating art will likely enjoy:

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Kerry Lemon’s Birds of Paradise
Kerry Lemon
Pictura
This concertina-style book takes us on a trip to the rainforests of New Guinea wherein live the stunningly coloured birds of the title. In addition to the colouring in possibilities, the author includes some basic information on the birds featured and lots of helpful tips on art in general, and how this particular book might be used.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

Flipping and Sliding

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Peekaboo A to Z
Peekaboo 123
Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger Press
We meet all kinds of animals large and small between the covers of these two lift-the-flap board books; and there’s one particular creature that makes multiple appearances in both; more of him later.
The alphabet book has an animal introducing each letter on the flap; lift this to reveal an alliterative sentence …

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Did you spot the intruder?
Some double spreads manage to feature three animals, or should that be four? We seem to have a persistent ‘other’ here too.
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And he’s getting rather impatient …

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When we finally reach the relevant page for the grand appearance – guess what, all our friend can do is …

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There’s alliteration too in the counting book. The whole thing takes the form of a race, the Animal Antics that has a line-up which includes ‘Two turkeys on a tandem’, ‘Three gorillas in a gondola’ … ‘ten seals on a surfboard’ and look who else has found himself a special commentator’s role …

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After 20 the numbers per vehicle increases in tens until 50 and then there’s a victorious leap by …

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For me, these books are really all about having fun and enjoying the playful language; the educational alphabet and counting aspects very much take second place to the excitement generated as young children investigate what’s hidden beneath each of the flaps (it’s a good job they are fairly sturdy as I envisage heavy use by enthusiastic little hands).

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Safari
Surya Pinto
QED
In this ‘slide and play’ book four wild animals introduce themselves through three statements relating to their particular characteristics and then ask, ‘Who am I?’ The answer being found or confirmed by manipulating the three sliding parts on each spread …

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to complete the picture of the animal in question – elephant, lion, giraffe or rhino.
With the exception of occasional touches of a single bright orange colour, the whole experience is in bold black and white graphics.
Finger fun for pre-schoolers and an inspiration for older siblings to try creating sliders for themselves.

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Little Why

Red Reading Hub is delighted to have the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for this debut picture book.

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Little Why
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press
A delightfully direct down-to earth narrative with delicious alliteration, exciting-sounding repeat refrains to join in with, deliciously droll collage style illustrations, a charmingly inquisitive main character, and with a vital message and celebration of individuality and uniqueness at its heart -and it is really all heart – this smashing book really is presented from the viewpoint of its chief protagonist, the adorable Little Why.
And, according to its creator, Jonny Lambert, it all started with a tiny felted creature and some doodles …
As he follows behind the Elders, baby elephant, Little Why just cannot keep in line. He’s constantly being side tracked by the sight of other amazing animals of the African savannah. Take Wildebeest and his special spiny-spiky horns for instance; Little Why must have a pair like that to give him great charging powers and make him appear super-duper scary.

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But his request for wildebeest-like horns is met with a swift and emphatic “NO!“ and when he asks “Why?”,Keep in line!” is all the response he gets.
The same thing happens when he spots Giraffe’s long-lofty leggy legs – just the thing to make me ‘super-stretchy tall’ to reach those tasty topmost leaves, thinks Little Why. But this request is treated in the same manner as the first.
By now my audience were ready to join in here, eagerly shouting NO! and the other repeat lines, as soon as Little Why spies Cheetah with that “speedy-spotty, fuzzy fur”.
But then, still not back where he should be, despite the best efforts of the gallant, feathered, silent player, what’s this about to confront our intrepid explorer of animal attributes?

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Surely that little, or rather huge, surprise is sufficient to keep Little Why on track?
Perhaps, but he still doesn’t seem satisfied with his lot. “If only I had … “ he says sulkily but this round of wishful thinking is brought to an abrupt halt by his mother,

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and this time his request to STOP! receives not one but two explanatory responses. Firstly the animals have reached their destination,

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but much more important is mother elephant’s final reassurance” “You don’t need … You’ve got fantastic flipflappy ears, a super-squirty trunk and … you’re special just the way you are.”
Much enjoyed by all I’ve shared it with, (audiences of 5s to 9s) Jonny Lambert’s debut solo picture book is definitely a winner.

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Some of my listeners imagined what Little Why might look like with some additional attributes…

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Counting Lions & Actual Size

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Counting Lions
Katie Cotton and Stephen Walton
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Right from the amazing cover image I was blown away by this one. What strikes you first about this large format book is the stunning, incredibly life-like charcoal drawings of the ten animal species portrayed, so accurate and detailed are they that at first glance one could almost think they’re photos.
Starting with One lion and finishing with Ten zebras …

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this is of course a counting book but it’s so much more. Both text and pictures radiate a sense of awe and wonder at the magnificence of the natural world.
Katie Cotton’s poetic descriptions capture verbally the creatures’ physicality and what it might be like for each of the animals in the wild at particular times in their lives so ‘Two gorillas / breathe the same breath./ The child was born a tiny, two-kilo thing of hair and bone and not much else, / so the other keeps him close./ For two or three years, they clasp each other,/ one creature, while he grows and grows and grows./ Later, as he climbs the trees alone,/ he may forget they were once/ two together./ Two gorillas.

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Many of the animals portrayed are threatened species:

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Some of the descriptions themselves mention the animal’s endangeredness, for instance “Does she know they are too few?/ What future is there for/ these four fighters?/ Four tigers.’
In ‘About the animals’ notes at the end of the book, Virginia McKenna provides additional information about each animal featured including its conservation status.

Readers also get right close up to the animals in:

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actual size
Steve Jenkins
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Eighteen creatures great and small feature in this engaging book that introduces readers to a wide variety of fauna from insects to mammals although in some instances Steve Jenkins shows only a part of the animal in his layered collage style illustrations. Alongside each of these is a descriptive sentence giving additional facts such as body height and weight.
Eyes figure quite prominently in several of the spreads and in one instance virtually all we get is an enormous squid eye 30cm across staring up from the page;

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but we also get quite close up to that of the Alaskan Brown Bear, the largest bird – an ostrich, and one belonging to the salt water crocodile. Here however, thanks to a fold out, our view is expanded to take in its awesome jaws.

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In a spread where we are shown a gorilla hand and that of the pygmy mouse lemur one’s instinct is to hold one’s own hand up against the former (children will want to do likewise) and to cover completely (if you’re an adult) the latter.

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If you missed out on the original hardcover version, get hold of this new paperback edition for your primary classroom or school library.

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A Bounty of Board Books

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Walter’s Wonderful Web
Tim Hopgood
Macmillan Children’s Books
Walter is a spider with a mission: he wants to spin a perfect web, not a wibbly- wobbly one that is whisked away whenever the wind blows.
His first effort – a triangular one is destroyed by the first puff of wind so he tries another – a rectangle, but with no more success.

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The diamond meets a similar fate but what about his circular-looking one, could that be the answer?
But three wooshes and Walter plus web hit the ground. Nearing despair, Walter stops to think before making one last attempt and by nightfall it looks as if he’s got it the design just right –

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WOW! Walter, you certainly deserved to succeed – top marks for perseverance and a wonderfully intricate web.
This delightful story for the very youngest provides a great opportunity to introduce ideas about not giving up when things get tough and of course, built into the narrative are those six basic 2D shapes.

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The Butterfly Garden
Laura Weston
Big Picture Press
Twenty words and a sequence of half a dozen super-stylish, beautifully patterned black and white illustrations: nothing much to get excited about – right? Wrong: look closely at the first of those black and white spreads.

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How many caterpillars can you spot? Look again at the silhouetted leaves and blooms and you notice there are flaps to lift. Open the top left-hand flap to reveal …

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And then the other four flaps and you’ll see a whole lot going on in vibrant colours …

 

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The subsequent spreads show the life cycle and life journey of the Monarch butterfly. (In North America, the Monarch migrates en masse to Mexico during the course of its life.)

 

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Essentially that’s it and every spread is beautifully designed and arresting first in black and white and then with its flashes of flamboyant colour.
Although the Monarch isn’t a breeding British butterfly, this book is a striking visual account of a butterfly’s life cycle.

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The Tiger Prowls
Seb Braun
Simon & Schuster
It’s hard to choose a favourite from the five animals that pop out from the pages of this seemingly simple yet impressive book. I love the shape and feel of the whole thing – its arresting cover, the way it whizzes through the various habitats the colour palette used and the clever paper engineering. Then there’s the elegant prose of the sentences used to describe each of the iconic creatures that grace the spreads.
First off is that tiger from the cover described thus:
‘The tiger prowls, stalking the jungle. Paw after heavy paw crunches on the forest floor. And so he does emerging from a gentle hint of vegetation straddling that first spread across which slides a muted snake.
Turn over and meet a graceful whale with its cleverly upturned tail and snout;

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the brown bear padding slow through the forest, the mighty elephant taking a shower in the hot sun (If I’m fussy I’d like to have seen an upturned trunk and slightly sharper tusks here ) and finally …

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Gentle, elegant, treetop nibbling, cloud-high grazer giraffe ‘pitching his way across the savannah, like a ship adrift on the open plain.’ (love those bird silhouettes)
Aimed at the very young but I can also envisage older children who get hold of this being inspired to try their hand at making their own pop-up animals.

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Dinoblock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams & Chronicle
MEET THE DINOSAURS says the sign across the museum doors and on opening them readers (and the two child investigators) find two key questions ‘Who are the dinosaurs?’ and ‘Where are the dinosaurs?’
From then on the book’s clever design really comes into play with a formula that is used to great effect for the next ninety or so pages using a mix of cleverly crafted cutaway pages and a series of similes likening each of the twenty three dinosaurs introduced to something a young child is likely to be familiar with, followed by another spread showing the particular dinosaur in its natural habitat and a sentence giving the dinosaur’s name with its phonetic pronunciation. Thus we have for instance, ‘I have a neck like a goose …

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turn over to ‘I am a Coelophysis (SEE-low-FYE-sis)’…
Or this one:

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The grand finale comprises a spread of drawn-to-scale dinosaurs on a gate-fold that opens out into a farewell display of skeletons of all the dinosaurs featured.

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Of those a fair number are relatively uncommon in books for young children and indeed a few such as Micropachycephalosaurus and Edmontosaurus) were new names to me.
Assuredly a block-buster for the very young but also a book that offers a great opportunity for them to see and think about a favourite topic in an exciting and imaginative new way. And, a jumping off point for further investigation and children’s own creativity.

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