The Princess and the Crocodile

The Princess and the Crocodile
Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca
Walker Books

Cossetted from the start, the ‘perfect’ being that is Princess Cora is then – once the realisation dawns on her doting parents that she’ll one day be the ruler of the land – scheduled for every single minute of her time for fear she won’t measure up to the task.

A nanny is hired to ensure she’s always neat and clean – a three baths a day regime is introduced; and when she’s not in the tub, her mother is making her life a misery with deadly dull tomes or her father subjecting her to a gruelling fitness regime.

One night though the girl decides a dog might just make her life bearable but neither her parents nor the nanny are willing to entertain such an idea. In desperation the Princess writes to her fairy godmother and then rips the letter to pieces and tosses them out of the window. Here Schlitz injects a lovely magical touch “because it was a letter to her fairy godmother, every scrap turned into a white butterfly and flew away’.

Perhaps though she isn’t sufficiently specific in her request for the following morning what should be at the foot of her bed but a gift-wrapped crocodile.

The two strike a deal. For a day, in exchange for cream puffs the crocodile will take Cora’s place giving her a day of sheer unadulterated freedom.
First though there’s the issue of a suitable disguise: that comes in the form of a frilly frock and mop wig together with a promise not to eat anyone.

The creature keeps his promise while managing to create utter havoc around the palace with an appropriate degree of ferociousness: dunking in the tub and nips for the nanny,

insults and nips for the Queen and lashings, clawings, bitings …

and incarceration for the King, allowing Cora a wonderful day outdoors being thoroughly wild,

getting messy, wet, and even managing to step in a cowpat.

Witty writing and delicate yet energetic, and often very funny illustrations, make for a wonderful read aloud or read alone chapter book. Either way, I imagine a good many listeners or readers wanting to devour this whole riotous neo fairytale in a single sitting.

Enchanting from begin to end. A book that will appeal to those who love princesses, justice, a good giggle and even perhaps, crocodiles. The latter will certainly love the one herein.

The Star Tree

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The Star Tree
Catherine Hyde
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
A tender lyrical story of a flame-haired girl, Mia who makes a Midsummer’s night moonlit wish.

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It’s a wish that launches her on an amazing magical journey by air, sea and land, a journey made possible by a huge owl,

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a Little Red Hare …

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(look at the toys on Mia’s window sill), Big White Bear and his air balloon and, Giant Stag. It’s he that takes her up to the top of the high hill upon which stands the Star Tree shimmering and sparkling in the night. From it Mia takes one small star …

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and clutching it to herself, boards the waiting Great White Goose and flies homewards ‘along the river’s silver pathway. / Up and over the drowsy land, over the hills, / over the church with the blunted vane / that barely stirs in the still air.’ to her bedroom wherein something else truly magical awaits her …
Breath-takingly beautiful illustrations and equally magical words meld into a spellbinding reading experience. Every one of Catherine Hyde’s atmospheric paintings has a mesmeric quality, which transports readers – particularly this one – to those other worlds of the imagination where anything and everything is possible. On subsequent readings try letting that happen; focus on one scene, pause and release your mind for a while before continuing Mia’s journey with her.
A perfect bedtime share; but equally a story to read at anytime; and a wonderful demonstration of how visual and verbal artistry can work together as a truly harmonious whole.

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Once Upon a Wish & Thank You!

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Once Upon a Wish
Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie
Red Fox
Deep in the forest, in a giant oak tree, lives a magical wishgiving boy, as you’ll soon see …
By night, as the wishes drift his way, he spends his time concocting and conjuring up wish magic for girls and boys,

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then delivering it right to them …

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Despite their delight at receiving their heart’s desire, these children quickly forget the wish giver who also has a wish of his own, for it’s a lonely life he leads in that secret lair of his. The lad wishes for a pet or a friend to keep him company but try as he might, his own wish is unfulfilled …

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Then one night this wish wafts his way “I wish I could fly” and immediately our lad is up and doing, sprinkling, stirring and filling a bottle of potion, before sailing off to deliver same to the waiting wisher. This particular recipient however, is rather different. Yes, she’s absolutely over the moon at being able to take her maiden flight, but it’s what she does next …

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that makes all the difference, though not right away. Her kind words take a little while for their own particular brand of magic to do its work …

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Amy Sparkes’ brilliant to read aloud rhyming verses mixed with Sara Ogilvie’s sparklingly gorgeous, richly and humorously detailed, glowing illustrations make for a magic mix all of their own: sheer delight from cover to cover.
If you’ve ever forgotten to thank, or overlooked saying, thank you to anybody, I urge you to get hold of a copy of this one and send it to them forthwith; actually buy a copy no matter what; you’ll surely find someone or many, to share its enchantments.

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Thank You!
Ethan Long
Abrams Appleseed
A variety of animals, small and large, a toddler and an adult demonstrate ways of showing thankfulness in this delightfully playful board book. There’s an additional way of showing gratitude too herein: paying it forward. Cat proffers Dog a ball, then dog in turn gives a flower to hummingbird;

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hummingbird then offers panda a bamboo shoot ; panda extends his paw with peanut to elephant and so on. Each act of kindness receives a characteristic thankful response – “Growl growl!”,Toot toot!” and so on until we come full circle to the cat, now the recipient of a ball of wool.
Next, we see each of the recipients enjoying their gift and a small child watching and wondering. And then comes a final human sharing time with adult and child rounding things off neatly.

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Long constructs this whole concatenation cleverly with each animal stretching out of its border and across the gutter with its offering.
If you’re endeavouring to teach your young infant to respond appropriately when given something, this is the perfect book; just make sure you don’t end up with a confused child barking, humming, growling, tooting, eeking, oinking or meowing. Actually though, those speech bubbles are great for joining in with, and a slightly older sibling would likely enjoy reading the book to a very young brother or sister.

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Golden Domes, Perfection and More

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Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini
Chronicle Books pbk
In this lovely book, a young Muslim girl narrator shares with readers the colours and objects that are a part of her everyday life. She starts with the red prayer mat her father uses five times a day when he faces towards Mecca to pray,

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then we see her mum’s blue hijab, the glowing gold of the mosque dome and minarets, the white kufi (the cap her Grandpa wears), the black ink she uses to write Allah in Arabic letters. The verses continue: “Brown is a date,/ plump and sweet/ During Ramadan,/it’s my favourite treat.” Orange is the colour of the henna designs made on the hands,

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purple an Eid gift, the zakat box filled with money given to charity during Eid is yellow, the Quran has a green cover, and finally, there is a shiny silver fanoos (lantern).
There is also a glossary which gives succinct explanations of the Islamic terms used and the end papers show beautiful Islamic patterns.
In addition to being a great introduction to the world of Islam, this is an important book now when there is so much misunderstanding and misconception about, and prejudice against, Muslims and their faith (which is essentially peaceful). Here a loving Muslim family is shown in a positive light going about their everyday activities in peace and harmony. Beautiful Islamic designs and patterns abound throughout – on clothes, buildings and other objects:

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these are universal and could as easily be found in the UK, India, the USA, the Middle East or any part of the world where there is a Muslim community.
This one should definitely be in every early years classroom or nursery to be shared, enjoyed and discussed.

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Nobody’s Perfect
David Elliott and Sam Zuppardi
Walker Books
As he sits on his bottom stair, a boy shares with readers, his thoughts about perfection – or rather imperfection. Gigi, his little sister is extremely noisy; his best friend, Jack is a bit of a show-off and his mum stubbornly refuses to listen when he explains that it’s his dog Ralphie that should be sitting on the “naughty step” for sleeping on our narrator’s bed, not he himself.
The narrator however, does put his hands up to his main imperfection – messiness

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and there’s certainly no getting away from that one. Messiness however, can lead to creativity and

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the  narrator definitely knows it.
Actually though, Jack’s showing off can sometimes be fun, as can Gigi’s cacophony

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and even Mum has times when she does listen and that’s pretty good. Seemingly near perfection will suffice after all.
I love Zuppardi’s exuberant, scribbly style illustrations with their bright acrylic backgrounds and the first person narration works well though there is a slight inconsistency in the pattern of telling.

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I Wish You More
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books
This little book is brimming over with good wishes – literally.

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Every single one of these wishes is one I’d want to give to a young child, indeed to anyone young or old. They are wishes for inner and outer happiness and peace: ‘more ups than downs’, ’ more give than take’,

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‘more we than me’ , ‘more hugs than ughs’, ‘more will than hill.’ I particularly like the reflective

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And …

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Small things? Yes, some perhaps, but profoundly big in impact.
Powerfully and playfully positive and full of love, with occasionally tricky, semantic wordplays that may well need explaining to the very young.
A little gem and one that could be given at birth, a naming, as a valentine’s gift or even perhaps, a wedding.

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