Arty! The First Artist in Space

Arty! The First Artist in Space
William Bee
Pavilion Children’s Books

I fell for Arty Farty when I met him in his acrobatic efforts to become The Greatest Artist in the World so was over the moon to receive his new space adventure to review.

Can you believe that our amphibious artist friend is set to become the world’s very first artist in space for you see, NASA – I’m surmising that’s who they are -have tried unsuccessfully, year after year, to recruit a famous artist to go into space.

Thus far all they’ve received is a series of negative responses,(we’re shown a priceless gallery of naysayers)  so it’s really no surprise to learn that they send a bunch of scientists to Paris with an invitation to zoom off in a rocket bound for the depths of the cosmos. You won’t be surprised either if you’ve previously encountered his agent, Mr Grimaldi, that it’s he who consents to this vacation in the void, (it’s a great PR stunt) but Arty who must make the voyage.

First though, comes a rather rigorous training regime,

after which inevitably, our Arty Farty friend ends up flat on his back, and no, it’s not in surprise at having passed the tests with flying colours, although he has.

Thereafter the entire stomach swirling set of tests is repeated with Arty clad in his splendid art-supply stocked spacesuit. Then following one more lie down, off he shoots into space in a rocket.

Emulating Buzz Aldrin, his first stop is the Moon, which is really the most uninspiring place for a creative creature like Arty to land up on. What is there to paint? NADA, thinks the new arrival; but then comes a lunar moment DING! Out comes the painting gear and it’s project space transformation.

Are the space scientists happy on Arty’s return – what do you think? Maybe not but somebody else is …

Totally pricelessly hilarious from start to finish, this book is a blast; it’s absolutely guaranteed to make you giggle till your guts hurt as you follow one frog where no artist has gone before but where, courtesy of William Bee, readers will surely go – over and over.

Arty! The Greatest Artist in the World

Arty! The Greatest Artist in the World
William Bee
Pavilion Children’s Books

I fell for Arty frog on the very first page of William Bee’s totally funky book.
Arty is a really cool dude, reputedly the world’s greatest artist. How did he come to earn this prestigious title, you might be wondering, I certainly did: the question is answered in this biographical work.

Here’s what happened: first off he purchases some vital pieces of equipment: snow shoes, a warm winter jacket and an extra tall step ladder.

Secondly he scales Mount Everest where atop the highest peak, he sets to work with brush and paints to create the world’s coldest, highest painting.

Clearly this leaves his energy and creativity depleted so his plan is to pass a week or so recuperating in bed, but it’s not to be. There’s more work to be done: it entails climbing aboard the wing of a supersonic jet plane and performing a sequence of aerobatic stunts.

The fastest painting does earn him the R & R he so badly desires.

His next task is to render his pal Tallulah the spottiest painting in the world.

Surely, like me you must be thinking, that’s got to be ‘job done’.

Not so; there’s still the wettest ever painting, the most paintings created simultaneously, the loudest painting

and the prettiest to do; not to mention the hairiest (and incidentally, the scariest).

Poor Arty. His agent Mr Grimaldi is an incredibly hard task master and refuses his protégé further rest; instead the two of them perform a kind of cooperative act on a gigantic trampoline.

My goodness that little amphibian really does need some down time after all that.
But has he managed to earn that sought after title after his monumental outpouring of activity?

William Bee’s stories get more and more zany with each new book.  For me this one certainly has the most buzz: it’s off-the-wall, or should that be on-the-wall, brilliant.

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors and Farm Machines

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors and Farm Machines
William Bee
Pavilion Books

R-r-r-r-r-r-rrrrrrrr! Hope you’ve got your wellies on ‘cos we’re going down on the farm and that’s the sound coming from William Bee’s tractor barn.
Therein he keeps all kinds of awesome specialist machines and he and his traffic cone friends can’t wait to show them off and tell us something about the jobs they do.

Tractors come in different shapes depending on the tasks they perform: some are very thin so they can work in confined spaces.

Others are enormously wide; you need those if you have a lot of land; and yet others are super-long and fantastic for getting through mega-thick mud.
These super clever machines do lots of pulling and pushing, lifting …

scooping, and carrying.
Depending on the type of wheels they have, they’re able to go over pretty much any kind of terrain – hard and bumpy or wet and soggy.
Farming was a lot harder work before tractors were invented: ploughing and pulling heavy loads was done by large horses or even cows.
Then came steam tractors like this one powered by coal …

There’s one machine on William’s farm not powered by an engine at all; can you guess what that might be?
If you want to find out, and to know about the delicious-sounding breakfast cereals William sells, then you’ll need to get hold of this smashing book to add to your shelves alongside his other two’ Wonderful World of … ‘ titles.
Unfortunately both mine have long gone – seized by eager children and I suspect this one will soon go the same way.

Transport, Words and Numbers

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trains and Boats and Planes
William Bee
Pavilion Books

William Bee showcases an amazing array of vehicles from early steam engines to high-speed super-sleek electric trains,

biplanes, to vertical take-off jump jets,

submarines to speed boats. There’s even a space rocket.
Every brightly coloured spread offers plenty to explore. There’s the featured vehicle of course but also a plethora of signs, logos (Elephant brand reigns supreme), and traffic cones getting up to all sorts of things and seemingly having a great time. William’s dog, Sparky, is there for the ride and so too is a tiny white rabbit.
All of that is accompanied by an interesting, on-going narrative from Bee himself that includes some occasional tongue-twisting alliteration; and the final spread is given over to some playful ‘Elephant’ brand advertising.
Totally immersive and certain to delight all mechanically minded young children and a fair few adults too, I suspect.

Big Words for Little Geniuses
Susan & James Patterson and Hsinping Pan
Penguin Random House Young Arrow

For sure there are lots – 52 in all – delicious words in this zany compilation for youngsters to get their tongues around; 26 illustrated – one for each letter of the alphabet – and the others in a kind of addendum.

I have issues with the pronunciation guide in a couple of places though, one being Magnanimous (mag-NA-nih-mus) which I suspect is the American way of saying the word; ditto Onomatopoeia (AH-noh-ma-toe-PEE-ya).
Nevertheless, I’m all for children expanding their vocabularies and this fun picture book certainly should, in the right hands, help them do just that.
A number of primary schools I know of (and I’m sure it’s quite common), have a ‘word of the day’ or a ‘word of the week’ – here’s a rich source to mine.

And, very young children really do love exciting-sounding words, repeating them for the sheer enjoyment of hearing them spoken aloud. Add to that Hsinping Pan’s bold, bright visuals and you have an alphabet book unlike any other.

I Know Numbers
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

This is an exploration of numbers and the various roles they play in everyday life. ‘Numbers are everywhere’ we’re told at the outset and we’re then show various examples from clocks and calendars, thermometers and weighing scales. These still hold true although this is a re-issue of a book first published in Japan in 1985. The next spread though shows out-dated technology

although it’s the only one and it offers an interesting talking point when sharing the book.
The upbeat text and bold, bright images certainly do put the case for the importance of numbers,

and their multi-functional nature, in an appealing way for those just getting to grips with number learning / number recognition skills.

Trucks and Rock Pools

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trucks
William Bee
Pavilion Books
This is truly a vehicular delight and who better to introduce it than Bee himself. First he shows off the fuel tanker which, we’re told, holds sufficient fuel to fill 2500 motorbikes, or if you prefer, 650 cars or 40 of the fanatic’s largest trucks. It’s fuel is pretty indispensable unless you happen to have one of these beauties: watch out for soot.

Mr Bee however, has a truck to take care of that eventuality too – his amphibious one.
As construction is a frequent activity at the William Bee’s Garage, there are all kinds of trucks to help with the various building-related tasks; there’s the one that carries supplies, a cement mixer, a café truck – building makes one hungry after all. William also has a rescue truck, which here, has been called out to aid a snow-scooper.

Racing cars, and a truck to carry them complete with spare wheels, tool boxes and more, are also kept at the garage, as is William’s amazing jet-powered truck; fire engines and more. Mr Bee though is off to the seaside in yet another of his amazing vehicles and there he goes … leaving readers with a few final spreads of truck facts and some adverts for all his trucks’ needs.
What more could a truck-crazy pre-schooler want that these wonderfully bright, detailed illustrations (eye candy for truck fanatics) and William Bee’s running commentary on same.

Rock Pool Secrets
Narelle Oliver
Walker Books
As a child on summer holidays in Devon, Cornwall or further afield in the Mediterranean, apart from swimming, my favourite activity was poking around in rock pools accompanied often by my sister and Dad. I’d catch various things in my net, pop them into a bucket, observe and attempt to identify them; and then put them back into the water. This ‘lift-the-flap’ book takes me right back to those days with a close look at many of the creatures and plants I most certainly found: sea anemones with their sticky tentacles – endlessly fascinating; hermit crabs residing in empty mollusc shells, other crustacea – crab species, shrimps shooting rocket-like into the tangled seaweed; and various fish including gobies.

Most starfish I found were dried up on the seashore; herein though we see one cleverly camouflaged on the surface of a rock.
Each creature is given a double spread and almost all have a large, appropriately shaped flap that open to reveal further details about the particular animal. The final spread with an invitation to discover its secrets, opens up on both sides revealing an entire rock pool.
With awe-inspiring lino print illustrations, a fairly short narrative text and a pictorial glossary at the back giving extra information, this is perfect for preschool children and KS1 audiences.

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Fun and Games / Migloo’s Weekend


Fun and Games
Alain Grée
Button Books
This is chock-full of playful activities –over 50 altogether – all devised and illustrated by artist Alain Grée. There is something that should appeal to a wide age range from around 3 up to 6 or 7. Each activity is given a single page printed only on one side and glued so that it can be removed for use. There’s a variety of matching games, find the odd one out, true or false games, calendar cubes, spot the differences pages …


and other games to develop visual perception as well as activities that entail cutting, folding and creating objects including a tiny puppet theatre


and a sentry box. You can even make a stand-up Santa chain.
All the pages are attractively presented and full of details that are the hallmark of Alain Grée’s illustrative style. It’s just perfect for indoor days and likely to keep a child or two engaged for hours at a time. An ideal diversion from endless screens too.


Migloo’s Weekend
William Bee
Walker Books
A day spent in the company of dog, Migloo and his Sunnytown friends is tiring: a whole weekend is totally exhausting, from an adult perspective as least. Youngsters tend to delight in rushing from one venue to another and there’s plenty of that herein. We join Migloo as he accepts a lift in Noah’s fish van and head for the market where Mrs Luigi has just opened a new café but it doesn’t look as though he’s going to be served any time soon judging by the queue, so off they dash to the farm instead. That too is very busy, but Farmer Tom has plenty on offer: Migloo’s spoilt for choice.


Appetite sated, the next stop is the museum, followed by the cinema to watch the latest movie, and guess what – that too is action packed. After all the fun, it’s bedtime for Migloo and all his pals. Phew!
Sunday is equally busy and Migloo manages to pack in a visit to the car races and a funfair extravaganza where he gets involved in an exciting rescue of a film star.
There are fold-out pages and things to spot aplenty; there’s even a spread called ‘Busy Page’, though I thought every page was pretty busy .
If you have or know children who like to be involved in a picture book that isn’t (despite what we’re told) a story, this could be just the thing. With plenty to explore and discuss, it’s likely to will keep youngsters amused for hours.

Migloo’s Day

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Migloo’s Day
William Bee
Walker Books
Food, – lots of it, friends – lots of those too, and fun – certainly plenty of that, feature in William Bee’s latest story which visually documents (along with a verbal narrative and all manner of signs and labels) a day in the life of a dog. Migloo is the star of the show but there’s a whole host of other characters, both human and animal, who play greater or lesser parts herein. Oh! and all manner of vehicles play a fairly significant part too.
The whole thing starts when Farmer Tom offers a hungry Migloo a ride to market on board his tractor. There is a dizzying array of market stalls some of which do indeed sell food but Migloo’s nose is quickly alerted to his very favourite smell, Suki’s Super! Sizzling! Sausages! so he follows his nose towards her stall in the Town Square.

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Sausages safely secured, Migloo wants something sweet so it’s a Knickerbocker Glory for afters. That’s breakfast dealt with. This is followed by a ride to the factory in Sydney’s side car – arriving just in time for lunch. Daisy’s sandwiches are just the thing and then, sporting a hard hat Migloo jumps on the back of Francois’ motorbike and they head to the fire station where jammy doughnuts are the order of the day.
A police jeep ride, a school visit (via Mrs Luigi’s café for pizza) to assist with bike week, and an excursion with the pupils, follow. Then disaster strikes: the school bus breaks down.

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Now it’s Migloo’s turn to give something back; but for that he needs the help of all his friends and their destination is the park – just in time for the children’s concert and perhaps a helping of chips for one canine hero. PHEW!

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This reviewer is exhausted just thinking about all this activity; but of course, things are not quite done at such a breath-taking speed. William Bee has crammed every single double spread full of details making it a visual feast so that readers want to pause and spend ages seeking out the items referred to in the “Question Time’ posters, identifying the various characters – around seventy in all, reading the signs, notices and generally talking excitedly about the plethora of fascinating details. And just in case that’s not enough there’s a final William Bee’s Busy Page with things to do and find – so it’s back to the previous pages then…
I had to prise my copy out of the hands of the group of 4 to 9 year olds I introduced this engrossing book too. But I’m pretty sure Bee would have kept them busy for many more hours had we had the time. That fold-out spread in itself is good for at least an hour.

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Worst in Show and more of Stanley

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Worst in Show
William Bee and Kate Hindley
Walker Books
Albert has a special pet, Sidney – a monster no less and to prove just how special he is, Albert is entering him in the ‘BEST PET MONSTER IN THE WORLD! COMPETITION” to be televised live from the studio. The competition has five rounds: Sidney scores a grand total of zero: he doesn’t have any warts let alone hairy ones,

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he’s unable to hover, is virtually without parasites, his farts are almost fragrant and his breath barely warms a sausage. ‘GOODNESS THE EMBARRASSMENT!’ How much can Albert take?
But listen –surely that isn’t Albert and Stanley’s names on the announcer’s lips during prize giving …

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Finally, as the two make their way home, Albert concludes that Stanley’s particular qualities are just not those appreciated by the show judges; he’d much rather have a sweet smelling, large-sized, cuddly; lovable best friend after all.
William Bee’s tale is monstrously mad and enormous fun – just the thing to appeal to children’s sense of the ridiculous. Clearly it had that same appeal for Kate Hindley too; her illustrations are wonderfully whimsical. Crammed full of deliciously disgusting details – the monsters and their hangers-on; and with delightfully droll human characters – the judges, camera crew, Albert and other pet owners, each camera shot and off-stage scene is a feast for viewers of this unlikeliest of contests. That final fold-out scene is a bravura performance in itself.
An inspired collaboration this.

More from William Bee in:

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Stanley’s Café
William Bee
Jonathan Cape
Multi-talented hamster, Stanley has donned his chef’s hat and with the help of friend, Hattie, is busy at work in his café. The first customer is Myrtle; she’s come for breakfast. Before long though it’s lunch for Charlie and Gabriel – yummy pancakes with lashings of syrup. Then Stanley has to go out for fresh supplies: he’s baking a special birthday cake for his pal Little Woo.

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Happy Birthday, Little Woo. Shame about the washing up.

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More from Stanley and friends in:
Stanley the Builder
Jonathan Cape
When Myrtle buys a plot of land she asks Stanley to help build her new house. Out comes his bulldozer to clear the ground, and then he has to dig out the foundations. Charlie’s on hand to help with the cement after which they both get on with the bricklaying, roof tiling and fitting windows.
A coat or two of paint and the job’s done: two tired workers, one happy Myrtle.

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Once again, William Bee’s Stanley is set to delight youngsters with his machines, tools and implements. As they enjoy the stories – which they undoubtedly will – preschoolers will absorb lots of information relating to Stanley’s activities both from the straightforward, descriptive texts and captivating, clear illustrations.
I wonder what he will turn his paws to next?

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Meet Stanley

I have to own up to being a big fan of William Bee already so I came to this new series with eager anticipation. I was not disappointed.

Stanley the Farmer
William Bee
Jonathan Cape
Meet Stanley, a pretty versatile rodent who seems to be able to turn his hand to all manner of tasks. In this story said hamster sets out in his tractor to plant some wheat seeds. First though he needs to plough the field, then, with Shamus’ help, spread the muck – POOH! Next Shamus pours the seeds into the hopper to be distributed in the furrows.


More help is enlisted, this time from Little Woo; he wields the hoses.
Of course, once the wheat starts to grow, there are marauding birds to fend off with the help of a scarecrow. When the wheat is grown fully, it is harvest time. Out comes Stanley’s combine harvester, then his baling machine and after all that work, it’s time to head home.


Great teamwork Stanley, Shamus and Little Woo.
Lots of fun, an appealing character and learning opportunities aplenty are packed into this sturdy little book. I predict Stanley and his friends will soon become firm favourites with young children at home and in early years settings.
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Stanley’s Garage
Herein Stanley is a garage owner at the ready to provide petrol for friend Hattie’s sports car,


a tyre change for Shamus’ ‘jeep’, cold water for Charlie’s vintage vehicle. Then he heads off to rescue another friend whose car needs a tow and a fix. All in a day’s work Stanley. Time to head off home for a long soak in the tub.
A delight from cover to cover.
Bee’s bold, bright illustrations are immediately attractive to young children and the storylines sufficiently interesting to engage and hold their interest throughout, and beyond: Did I see a tool box there?


A children’s TV series in the making maybe?
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Also newly published in paperback is William Bee’s hilarious, very noisy story about the sheep that cause a major traffic jam:
and the cars go…
Walker Books


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Previously reviewed on this website in the section The Ones That Got Away

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