Ruby and Graham / This Old Dog

Ruby and Graham
Lucy Barnard
New Frontier Publishing

Playful party loving Ruby and organising expert, Graham, both live in Acorn Wood ensuring that it’s both a happy lively place and a beautiful one.

However, it’s Ruby who gets all the attention from the other woodland animals, so one afternoon Graham decides to change his ways and become more funky.

Such is the improvement in his popularity that he resolves to make the change permanent.

Now while it might be a good thing for Graham, the woodland rapidly becomes a messy, confused environment. Ruby approaches her fellow squirrel and an interesting discussion ensues wherein they each talk about their feelings of self-worth.

Can the two share their abilities to their mutual benefit, as well as for the betterment of the entire community? Working together is the way to go …

Lucy Barnard’s digital illustrations add humorous details to her textual narrative, making every spread a stopping point that offers much to enjoy and talk about with young listeners, particularly with the approach of autumn and winter.

This Old Dog
Martha Brockenbrough and Gabriel Alborozo
Levine Querido

This Old Dog is a heart-warming story about a dog that’s well past its prime (‘His bones are sore but his heart is strong’) and a small girl who loves him dearly.

From the moment the child is born, the pace of life in old dog’s family speeds up, but the creature ‘likes to take things slow.’ He’d yearned to have a friend for long, slow strolls, rolls in the grass and romps in the leaves.

Both little girl and the dog truly know how to live in the moment, make the most of their experiences and cherish their time together; and once the child takes to her feet she walks straight towards old dog. At last his wish is fulfilled: there’s grass smelling, hill rolling down and much more …

some of which make the pooch enormously excited.

Together they can discover (or rediscover) what a wonderful world it is, day after day …

Just as the girl and old dog were seemingly made for one another so too was the author/illustrator partnership between Martha Brockenbrough and Gabriel Alborozo. The slow, steady text skilfully mirrors old dog’s plodding, yawning demeanour so perfectly captured in the delicately lined ink and water colour illustrations; he’s a real personality this pooch, as is the adoring little girl, his total devotee and playmate.

Whether or not you’re a lover of dogs, you’ll definitely fall for this gorgeous book.

I Don’t Want To Be Small

I Don’t Want To Be Small
Laura Ellen Anderson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The little boy narrator of this rhyming tale rues his lack of stature; “It’s not fair,” he says. Frequently overlooked, he’s the smallest among his friends and big bro’s castoffs are way too large.

In a fit of pique the lad tosses his Teddy Bear skywards only to get it stuck in a tree out of reach.
Nothing he tries succeeds in getting Ted down;

superfast consumption of green veggies merely serve to give him wind and attempting to become flower-like is let’s say, a damp squib.

His “I JUST WANT MY BEAR” shout causes a tall girl to come and offer her assistance; but not even she can reach Teddy.

Light bulb moment: teamwork might just do it suggests our narrator, and … hurrah! Success; but much more important, is what  ensues.

Laura’s spirited illustrations abound with humour and pathos, and her seemingly simple, funny story with its powerful messages about self-acceptance and the importance of co-operation, will resonate with all those who feel inferior for whatever reason.

Edward and the Great Discovery / Diggersaurs

Edward and the Great Discovery
Rebecca McRitchie and Celeste Hulme
New Frontier Publishing
Young Edward comes from a long line of archaeologists but, despite determined efforts, is yet to make his first discovery. Then one wet night, the lad unearths, or rather falls over something that looks promising; it’s a strange egg.
Edward takes it indoors for investigation and a spot of TLC …

When the egg eventually hatches, Edward is more than a little disappointed to discover that it’s nothing more exciting than a bird; albeit a very helpful, loving one. Disappointment number two comes when Edward realises his bird is unable to fly.

To cheer himself up, the boy takes himself off to his favourite place, The Museum of Ancient Things and it’s there he learns that after all, his find is indeed a momentous one– a Dodo no less.

Now Edward has, not one but two great finds: an extraordinary friend and companion and a rarity from ancient times. He has also earned himself a place on the wall of fame alongside the other esteemed members of his family.
With its scientific underpinning, this is an unusual and enormously engaging tale of friendship and self-discovery. The gentle humour of the text is brought out beautifully in Celeste Hulme’s avant-garde, detailed illustrations: every turn of the page brings visual delight and much to chuckle over.

Michael Whaite
Puffin Books
If you want a book for pre-schoolers that rhymes, is full of delicious words for developing sound/symbol awareness, is great fun to use for a noisy movement session and is characterised by creatures that are a fusion of two things young children most love, then Diggersaurs is for you.
A dozen of the mechanical beasts are to be found strutting their stuff between the covers of animator Whaite’s debut picture book; and what’s more they’re all working together in a enormous construction enterprise.

In addition to the huge monsters, there are some hard-hat wearing humans; but you’ll need to look closely to discover exactly what they’re doing and saying. That site certainly appears to be something of a hazardous place to be working alongside those earth-shaking, smashing, crashing, crunching and munching …

pushing and shoving, stacking, spinning, deep hole drilling, moving, sweeping mechanised giants.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Messy Book


The Messy Book
Maudie Powell-Tuck and Richard Smythe
Little Tiger Press
After reading the opening two or three spreads of this book I was convinced its creators must have been flies on the wall in my home at some time. Here’s how it starts …

As the story progresses though – and brilliantly, the whole thing is delivered entirely through speech bubbles and hilarious, very messy visuals – it becomes apparent that it’s about much more than merely tidying up your own space. Environmental pollution is its central theme, as cat proceeds to shove the mountain of mess from land …


to sea …


much to the disgust of the other animals: dog, elephant, giraffe, the creatures of the ocean, a pair of penguins, oh, and there’s a fox there somewhere too. Yes, we all agree with cat, tidying up can be pretty boring and ways of livening up the whole process present all kinds of exciting possibilities …


For some of those concerned anyway …


Oh, oh! It looks like we’re back where we started again but what is all this about hats? Where there are hats there’s usually a party and where there’s a party there’s usually rather a lot of mess … Here we go again …


Already I’ve had a bit of a rant in other places about the kinds of books that ought to be given to children in the early stages of becoming readers (NOT dull scheme fodder). This is a perfect example of a great book for those in the fairly early stages.
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Terrific Truck Tales

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Old MacDonald Had a Truck
Steve Goetz and Eda Kaban
Chronicle Books
What on earth is going on down on Old MacDonald’s farm? Certainly the animals are there but what are they up to? We join them and the farming couple as they start the day, the latter in a truck loaded with a what looks like metal, and are greeted by the livestock: all looks pretty normal …

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but turn the page and an excavator confronts us with a ‘DIG DIG here and a DIG DIG ‘there … ‘
Thence follows a whole lot of scooping, pushing and shoving,

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scraping and raking, dumping and thumping, squishing and smashing, spinning and whirling as the noisy narrative takes readers through the book page by page and Mrs M gets on with the job of reconstructing the truck’s engine, adding new tyres (huge ones) and giving the whole thing a respray.

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Mr M. meanwhile has been in charge of the digging, building –

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and generally directing the construction of an arena.
With the day’s work finally complete, Mr and Mrs Macdonald don goggles and safety helmets, jump into their reconstructed vehicle and she drives them off into the night with a wave to their co-constructers.
Exuberant pencil and gouache illustrations, digitally composited, coupled with a jaunty, onomatopoeic text are just the thing for a lively story session be it with an early years audience or an individual vehicle-loving youngster. Whatever your audience, make sure you allow plenty of time to explore the humorous details on every spread –much of the story is told in the visuals.

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Little Blue Truck
Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
Nosy Crow
The little blue truck trundles merrily on its way greeting the animals as it passes them: ‘Sheep said, “Baaa!”/Cow said, “Moo!”/”Oink!” said a piggy./”Beep!” said Blue.’ On it goes over hill and dale

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until a large and very rude dump truck hurtles past, swerves and ends up stuck in a whole load of muck. His honks for help go unanswered by the animals. However, being the kind-hearted vehicle that he is, Little Blue attempts a rescue but he too ends up stuck fast in the mire. That’s when all that friendliness of his pays dividends: the animals rally together, ‘Head to head/and rump to rump, /they all pushed Blue -/ who pushed the Dump.’
But even that doesn’t quite do it; then up pops one more creature – that tiny green toad

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and it’s he whose added power finally frees both Dump and Blue. Paying it forward certainly works and even Dump drives off having learned an important lesson about being a good friend and the rewards of neighbourliness.
I’m not surprised this story is already a best seller in the USA. It’s full of opportunities for listeners to join in with the animal (and vehicle) sounds that are part and parcel of the rollicking rhyming text.
I love those rural scenes with their nostalgic feel and dusky palette.

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