Tag Archives: Yasmeen Ismail

Maisy Goes to the Bookshop / Kiki and Bobo’s Super Surprise

Maisy Goes to the Bookshop
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
A book that promotes the idea of reading and bookshops for the very young – what’s not to love? And when it’s a child-friendly establishment (or in this case Maisy friendly) with a kindly bookseller on hand to help you make a choice once you’ve had a good browse, as is so at  ‘We Love Books’, you know you’re in one of the best possible places.
Then when you happen to bump into your friends, all enthusing about their choice of reading matter things get even better. There’s even a story time session …

and a café to complete the delights, before you head off to give another friend a very special present.
Lucy Cousins captures the magic of books and bookshops for pre-schoolers in her bright, engaging scenes of budding bibliophiles. Hurray for Maisy and friends, and child-friendly bookshops everywhere.

Kiki and Bobo’s Super Surprise
Yasmeen Ismail
Walker Books
Two friends return in another lift-the-flap fun story.
It’s a special day in Kiki and Bobo’s house, so they both think; far more special than waffle day, Bobo tells his friend as he departs to market.
Kiki meanwhile decides it must be her best friend’s birthday and sets about preparing for a surprise party. She bakes a cake, blows up balloons, hangs bunting and dons her best party clothes.
She of course, is not the only one preparing for a surprise party.
Bobo’s shopping includes lots of yummy food …

and a special present; and on his way home, he stops to pick a birthday bouquet for Kiki, who back  indoors, seems totally unaware that it’s actually her birthday that is being celebrated.
Let the merriment begin …

Gentle offbeat humour for the very youngest: it’s brimming over with flaps to explore, labels to read and yummy things to tingle the taste buds, not forgetting that BIG SURPRISE for one of the main characters that will be eagerly anticipated by knowing toddlers.

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Kiki and Bobo’s Sunny Day / Papasaurus

Kiki and Bobo’s Sunny Day
Yasmeen Ismail
Walker Books
Meet Kiki and Bobo. They’re super excited on account of a trip to the seaside; the perfect place to spend a sunny day they think. Off they go in the bus where Kiki eagerly anticipates a swim in the sea: Bobo, in contrast does not.
He doesn’t want the ice-cream Kiki buys either, despite his friend’s best efforts.
Undaunted, she suggests that dip in the sea. This is greeted by a series of stalling activities: rubbing on sun cream,

collecting seashells and sandcastle constructing, until finally the indulgent Kiki is rewarded, not by an enthusiastic change of heart on Bobo’s part: rather he tearfully admits that he’s scared of sea swimming.
Three cheers for Kiki: she has just the thing for reluctant swimmers and she’s ready to let Bobo have that, and equally important, to take hold of his hand as they enter the water.

So, overcoming the fear of water – tick; being a super-duper friend and helping a pal in his hour of need – tick. Those are the important outcomes of a seaside sortie so delightfully orchestrated through Yasmeen Ishmail’s characteristically adorable illustrations – littered in this instance with flaps to open – and a straightforward text that in the main, comprises the dialogue between Bobo and Kiki.
Another winner for Yasmeen Ismail.

Stephan Lomp
Chronicle Books
Using a similar question and answer style employed in Mamasaurus, Lomp has Babysaurus participating in a game of hide-and-seek with his Papasaurus. When it’s Babysaurus’s turn to be the seeker, he can’t find his Papa. His “Have you seen my papa?” is directed to first Stego, and subsequently Anky, Mosa, Velo and Edmont,

all of whom respond by referring to attributes of their own papas. None though can match up to Papasaurus in the eyes of his little one and eventually he pauses his search on top of a large hump in the landscape to consider where his father might be;

and lo and behold …
The dinosaur characters are rendered in bright colours making them stand out starkly against the sombre shades of the prehistoric landscapes they inhabit and it’s thus that Lomp creates the possibility of hidden danger as the infant dinosaur forays into the unknown perhaps for the first time.
Lots of fun to share with young dino. fans, in particular those youngsters who with a parent fairly near at hand are beginning to make those first forays into the wider world.

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The Painting-In Book / Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad


The Painting-In Book
Anna Rumsby
Laurence King Publishing
All young children have the potential to be creative; they just need a supportive adult, some basic resources and opportunities to experiment.
Early years teachers will be familiar with the techniques herein (and have offered similar kinds of activities); parents may not be; and they I think, will welcome this large format, bumper book of thirty activities for budding young artists. All that’s needed to get going are: an apron, water-based paints, a mixing dish, paint brushes of various sizes, a sponge, an old toothbrush, some bubble wrap, cotton buds and a container for water. (I’d add to this, a plastic sheet or old newspapers). Activities – and they’re all exciting, fun and educative in the art sense, – range from colour mixing, hand-printing …


printing with cotton buds, bubble wrap printing, toothbrush paint flicking (a favourite with nursery age children), painting with a sponge, and adding lines to wet paint with the end of an inverted paintbrush.


The paper used is high quality and the sheets easily removable. Perfect for wet days and holidays when you can’t get outside – or if you can, then move outdoors and do a spot of painting there.


Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad
Yasmeen Ismail
Laurence King Publishing
Whoppee! Donkey, Cat and Dog come together for the third in the fabulous Draw & Discover series by the super-talented artist, Yasmeen Ismail. Twenty five emotions/feelings from curious to cranky, (where Dog’s hunger is ‘making him cranky’ and the reader/co-creator is asked to put some food on his plate); annoyed to afraid, guilty to gloomy and startled to scared, are presented through delightfully silly situations such as this: what could it be that has scared Dog and Cat? …


Every single scenario is truly funny; it’s hard to pick a favourite, but I can imagine many children would go for this embarrassing situation for Dog who has had a slight accident and now needs some dry pants …


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A Clutch of Activity Books


inside, outside, upside down
push, pull, empty, full

Yasmeen Ismail
Laurence King Publishing
As a big fan of Yasmeen Ismail’s work I was thrilled to see these new Draw and Discover activity books. Herein children can, having grabbed their pens and pencils, join Rabbit and Duck and have lots of fun responding to the instructions on every page.
Those who work with young children know that concepts such as ‘tall and short’ …


‘short/long’, ‘small/ big’ and ‘empty/full’ are learned gradually through experience: inside, outside, upside down will add to such experience. In addition opposites such as outside/ inside, top/ bottom, left/ right …


are also playfully presented.
Push, pull, empty, full adds scientific concepts – push/ pull …


and warm/ cool as well as ‘beginning/ middle/ end’ which invites readers to ‘draw the middle’ and colour the rainbow created by so doing.
Draw Colour Discover’ says the message on the back cover: I’d add, Enjoy.


Woodland Hedgehugs Activity Book
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Spring’s not far away; already catkins are appearing on the hazel trees so it’s a great time to get out into the countryside or park with Horace and Hattie hedgehog (not forgetting Sid the Snail – he pops up on every page) and take up their invitation to engage in some sensory play. They suggest you wear wellies and wet weather gear and take along ‘A pot or box and a spoon, paper, chalk, glue, sticky-tape and ( most important I think), your imagination.’
Suggested outdoor activities include observations of colours in nature, looking for animal tracks, a scavenger hunt, some woodland challenges …


an exploration of woodland textures, and taking rubbings of bark and leaves.
There’s a page of tree leaves to search for; and an invitation to listen out for natural sounds can be followed by drawing what was heard on the related page,
These are just some of the in-the-field suggestions but there are plenty of indoor ideas too. Why not try making a shaker from a Y-shaped stick, do some messy leaf printing, or creating some tasty ladybird treats starting with an apple.
I like the way the outdoors is brought to the indoors through activities such as these and the woodland map making. The pictorial map outlined in the book can be coloured, but I’d suggest children make their own, either in two or three dimensions, perhaps with the help of photos taken on a walk.


8 Ways to Draw a Fish
Luisa Martelo
Tara Books
The author of this thoroughly engaging and instructive activity book has enlisted the help of artists from various regions of India. There are eight different art styles in all including Rajasthani Meena work from artist Sunita, Gond art from Madhya Pradesh from Bhajju Shyam, and Subhash Vyam, Madhubani style from Bihari artist, Rambharos Jha, Bhil art from Subhash Amaliyar and Patua style from West Bengali artist, Swarna Chitrakar.
As with all Tara publications, the whole thing is of top quality: the paper itself is beautifully thick (card almost) and each spread is a combination of grey outlines – thick or thin – and colourful design/pattern.


The suggestion is that users trace the fish outlines and then be creative in how they add their own details and colours. The guidance is subtle rather than overly instructive and accompanying it are snippets of basic scientific information about the fish and their environments.
And of course, the book proves lots of fun, both for its intended child audience and for the many adults who enjoy such books as a means of relaxation. Make sure you read the author’s ‘What is Art?’ on the inside front cover flap too.
Buy to give and buy to keep. I intend to give my copy but first I’ll do some sneaky tracing so I don’t miss out on the creative opportunities.

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Yasmeen Ismail
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
You’ve just got to meet Lila: she’s unstoppable with her boundless imagination and joie de vivre. And she’s just off with Mummy – or is supposed to be – to visit her Grandpa. The snag is – for her mum anyhow – that Lila has already let her vivid imagination take over and rather than getting on her outdoor clothes she’s off on one of her flights of fancy. Here she goes … doing, as she tells Mummy, “Nothing …


Yes they do manage to catch a train eventually, Lila with biscuit in hand and doing “Nothing …” to said biscuit and it’s this tasty treat that sets her imagination off into over-drive again RARRR-RRR! 


The next step of the journey is, for Lila at least by scooter – did I say scooter? Actually for Lila it’s something else altogether: now she’s “the queen of super speed” who will “CRASH down mountains and tear up trees …


Eventually, they do arrive at their destination and in response to Grandpa’s “What have you been doing since I last saw you?” comes the inevitable – I’ll leave that to you to work out … … and move on with Lila as she takes to the air with the birds, followed by …


Grandpa – Yippee!
Sheer delight from cover to cover: Yasmeen Ismail does it YET again with this one. I have to say though, that I was more than a little bit predisposed to adore it from the cover message ‘Run away with your imagination’ before even looking on the inside. Nevertheless this bobby dazzler more than lived up to expectations: Lila is out of this world, brilliant.

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Christmas For Greta and Gracie

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Christmas for Greta and Gracie
Yasmeen Ismail
Nosy Crow
With this on the title page,

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who could possibly resist the latest offering from the wonderful Yasmeen Ismail who, for me, can do no wrong?
It features sisters, Garrulous Greta, slightly older than Gracie (one year, six months and three days to be precise) and a whole lot noisier: Gracie just liked to listen – usually.
It’s Christmas Eve when we meet them and the girls are busy with the crayons, or rather Gracie is; Greta’s bored and is anxious to get outside and help decorate the village Christmas tree. Here they are …

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But when it comes to putting the star atop the tree, guess who insists on climbing up and guess who asks in the shop for the special ribbon to wrap the presents. It certainly isn’t Gracie; she’d wanted red ribbon …

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Indeed she only manages to get three words in as a response to Mrs Goose’s “You must be very excited about Christmas, Gracie. What do you think Father Christmas is like?” But those three words pretty much sum up what turns out to be a very special encounter with a very special person at the dead of night while her sister is tucked up fast asleep. …

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And on Christmas morning, guess who is finally rendered speechless when having read the label on one of the stockings, hears about that encounter …


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What do you think those three words were that Gracie said? Well, if you want to find out, then hot foot it along to your nearest bookshop and get hold of this cracker of a book. It’s totally brilliant.

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Characters Bold and Not So Bold


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I’m A Girl
Yasmeen Ismail
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Let’s hear it for the wonderful female protagonist – an aardvark I think –  in Yasmeen Ismail’s latest book. She’s messy, super fast, brave, spontaneous and an independent thinker and doer.

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She’s a great music maker, likes to play games of all kinds

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and is determined to be the BEST. She is – in her own words – “sweet and sour, not a little flower!But, she has a hard time convincing others of her gender. “I’m a girl!” she asserts at every wrong assumption, and there are many.
Then she makes friends with another person who is also determined to be true to his own nature

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… and it’s time for a celebration of individuality.
Brilliantly exuberant, funny and full of joy: a book to cherish. If only all children had the confidence to be true to themselves like the girl and her new-found friend herein.
If I had my way a copy would be given to all young children before they start school or nursery.
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Max the Brave
Ed Vere
Puffin Books
Meet kitten Max. Despite appearances he’s a fearless mouse chaser, or would be if only he knew what a mouse looked like. He decides to do a search; but encounters with Fly, Fish, birds, Elephant and Rabbit all of whom have had sightings, yields nothing. Or so it seems despite …

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But the wily animal professes to be a Monster, so what about this slumbering creature?

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Time to find out Max …

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Oops! Perhaps Mouse chasing isn’t quite what you’d anticipated fearless one: Monsters instead, perhaps?
I’m a great fan of Ed Vere (of Banana fame). Here, his clever use of space, a bold, flat colour palette and minimalist style sit well with the direct, dead pan narrative that is delivered largely through Max’s internal dialogue and his interactions with the animals he meets.
A great one to share and I anticipate multiple re-readings will be the order of the day (or night). Equally, it’s a super story for emergent readers to try for themselves.

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A Clutch of Activity Books

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of activity type books; the teacher part of me would much prefer to provide children sheets of paper, large and small and a variety of materials, some encouragement and let them create. However that’s not for everyone and I know there are some children (and definitely lots of parents) who want something much more self-contained on occasion. So, here’s a clutch of stand-out books that might be just the thing to turn to on a rainy day or when the children seem at a loss for what to do next…


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Let’s Go Find a Tiger!
Yasmeen Ismail
Macmillan Children’s Books
In the company of two explorers we foray deep into the jungle seeking a tiger. Tigers however are far from the only inhabitants of this lush environment: there are brightly coloured birds – particularly if you draw some as well as using the stickers provided at the back of the book, a variety of minibeasts, a snake or so …

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a lone monkey that needs feeding (you draw or stick the food and additional monkeys), and some more friends to play with (you decide what).
Further in are some animals already engaged in playful activity; they too need others to join them.
Watch out for that pond: what scary thing lives there? – It’s pretty much up to the reader …
And so the search continues: there’s an encounter with a large, friendly pachyderm, some leopards partying, birds among the branches …

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and finally or almost so – that sought-after tiger.
At the end of the book, the reader has become the co-creator of his or her own jungle story, or that’s the intention. Very young children will need an adult to read the rhythmic, sometimes rhyming text aloud before embarking on the artistic endeavours offered herein.
As always Yasmeen Ismail’s own illustrations are a delight – exuberant and playful. I suspect any youngster offered this book would delight in personalizing it in his or her unique way.

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You Are an Artist
Marta Altés
Macmillan Children’s Books
This book takes the form of a series of ‘lessons’ from an artist, THE artist from Marta Altés’ I Am An Artist picture book. The art teacher provides a drawing lesson, a lesson in looking at things creatively wherein you have to find the 10 faces, an opportunity to get colourful, another to use sticker shapes in imaginative ways (I’ve seen foundation stage children engaging in using real objects – leaves,

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flower petals, shells, pebbles, pencil shavings, scraps of paper, wood offcuts etc. in a similar fashion,

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rather than the stickers provided at the end of the narrative). Then there is a lesson on using line, another about looking for and using pattern …

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and some other fairly open-ended activities.
Not only does this book offer hours of fun but also provides the opportunity to think about, and talk about being an artist and what it entails.
I love the assertive message inherent in the title.

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Atlas of Adventure Activity Fun Pack
illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Wide Eyed Publications
Even if you’re not going far afield this holiday, you can visit all kinds of locations near and far courtesy of a companion to Lucy Letherland’s splendid Atlas of Adventure. Essentially it comprises a fair bit of colouring in (this seems to be in vogue at present), things to spot and snippets of information that are scattered throughout the various spreads. So, pens and crayons at the ready, you can ‘Go Wild in Africa’, ‘Party Around the World’, go deep sea diving and more.

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There’s also a flags of the world poster a the back of the book and stickers to embellish the map of the world on the reverse side.

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Pop this into a bag before you embark on a journey with youngsters, no matter what your destination.

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Making Faces!
Jacky Bahbout and Momoko Kudo
Thames & Hudson
With a large die-cut circle through each of the 32 tear-out pages of this book/pad children are provided with a whole host of possibilities to be inventive with mark-making materials, offcuts of paper/fabric, wool, glue and other bits and pieces. Then by peering through the central hole, they can become the star (human or animal) of their own playful scenarios

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with sound effects as suggested on some of the pages, though there isn’t always much room for embellishment around the face hole.
The paper used feels like artists’ paper and the wide variety of topics such as ‘Let’s Space Walk’ or ‘I Love Spiders’ included should offer something to interest most young children.

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Specs for Rex

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Specs for Rex
Yasmeen Ismail
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Rex has new specs, BIG, ROUND and RED and very smart too; but he doesn’t think so and does everything he can to lose the dratted things.
At school too he tries hiding them, or disguising same, indoors…

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and out.

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Back inside, he also finds something – Miss Spots’ missing whistle and that’s deemed worthy of a special gold star. By the end of the day, that is not the only thing Rex has found: much more important he’s found a new friend and one who admires those super cool specs of his. Smiles and hugs all round.

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Miss Spots’ chaotic, child-friendly classroom with paints, pens and crayons strewn everywhere looks to be the very place Yasmeen Ismail produced her wonderful, deceptively slap-dash free flowing paintings through which she chooses to tell much more of the story. Clearly she is no stranger to early years settings, where overflowing sinks and the creative use of toilet paper are familiar sights.

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A spirited story showing the importance of self-esteem and the positive effects of standing out from the crowd – just a little bit. A must have book for all settings where there are young children.
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