Fly, Chick, Fly
Written by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Tony Ross
Andersen Press £10.99
This is an endearing picture book from a winning author/illustrator collaboration. Three barn owls are born in a nest in a big oak tree, but the youngest refuses to leave the safety of the tree to learn to fly. The big wide world looks simply too scary! Eventually she is persuaded, and the following year finds her raising her own young in a big beech tree in the same woods. This lovely book is full of engaging and enriching text, together with pastel illustrations that are both atmospheric and sympathetic to the silent flight of the barn owl. The text has rhythm, pattern and eloquent allusions to the natural world around. The story is simple but effective and well-balanced, with elements of tension and a happy resolution. The illustrations are softly drawn and evocative without being sentimental, and flood the pages with gentle colour, conjuring the twilight world of the owl family. This is a beautiful book, ideal for reading aloud or as a bedtime story for very young children.
Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket
Written by Tatyana Feeney
It’s an oft told tale of when the comfort blanket or toy needs washing much to the distress of its small owner. In this case, the blanket is blue and the owner is a small bunny. Feeney’s illustrations are simple, but effective, line drawings with splashes of blue for the blanket. The first half of the text is repetitive and rhythmic. After the dreaded washing Bunny takes his new, clean blanket through all the activities that got it dirty in the first place and soon it is back to being just the way he likes it. The language is simple enough that it could be returned to in later years when the child is ready to read it for themselves, but the book’s initial attraction will be as a cosy shared read about a common childhood situation.
The Hueys in the New Jumper
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins (eB) £10.99
A large format book and large text introduces the Hueys. These are bean-like creatures which tend to look identical and behave in identical ways. Then Rupert knits himself “a nice new jumper” and brings shock and confusion to the Huey community. But the Hueys obviously need conformity because soon they all have jumpers. Identical ones! I hope the readers start arguing about this one. Is it about conformity, trendsetting or limited knitting skills? And how did the Hueys get to the endpapers where they all wear wildly different hats? The discussion starts here!
Not on a School Night!
Written and illustrated by Rebecca Patterson
Two young brothers share a bunk bed and a sense of mischief. They really don’t want to go to sleep. Every night from Monday to Thursday they think up noisy games to play after bed-time, until Mummy and Daddy have to intervene. But Friday is different – as it’s not a school night. They enjoy tea in their den, staying up late, and watching TV until they fall asleep briefly, until Saturday morning - yet another lively time! The cheerful cartoon style pictures make this a bright and lively read. The boys are shown with a host of toys, leaping about their room, playing and jumping and having a great time. The images are full of life and almost seem to bounce off the page. The language is simple and repetitive and should engage the youngest child. The pictures also offer plenty to talk about beyond the limited language of the text.
Written by illustrated by Ellie Sandall
Mango, the bird, had an enormous friend. He was a blue bear who loved to copy everything Mango did. When Mango hopped daintily along the ground, Blue wobbled right after him. When Mango flew into a tree, Blue climbed up too, shaking all the new twigs out of Mango’s nest. Flying off by herself seemed a good idea at first but then Mango had second thoughts. Large stylish illustrations and a satisfying tale of accommodation within friendship make this book the perfect choice to share with a young audience.
The Littlest Bear
Written by Gillian Shields
Illustrated by Polona Lovsin
This is a charming if sentimental story about a small polar bear and his mother living in the snows of the north. The illustrations are fairly one-dimensional, but nevertheless the story reads well. The littlest bear is told by his mother not to go too far in case of meeting the wild white wolf. Of course, little bear forgets the warning and wanders off, only to encounter a small white wolf, child of the wild white wolf, who in turn has been warned against the dangers of the wild white bear. Fortunately the two realise they need not be afraid of each other, and become playmates, much to the surprise of their mothers. It is a simple story which defies the rules of nature and hardly offers a realistic view of life in the frozen north. But it does provide a comforting story suitable for bed-time for the youngest children and has the capacity to provoke discussion about animals, the northern landscape and even the northern lights which feature on a couple of mystical dream sequence pages.
Written by Polly Lawson
Illustrated by Jo Allan
Hettie is so incredibly hairy that birds, butterflies and even a squirrel and a mountain hare recognise her warm thick fur coat as a rare and special place to snooze and even make a home throughout the winter. By spring, poor Hettie is decidedly itchy and feeling more than a little tired of being used as a hairy hotel. Granny, Kirsty and Callum come to the rescue, but how do the guests fare? This is a delightful picture book which the children loved because they were sympathetic to Hettie but also worried about the other creatures surviving the winter. It led to some interesting discussions!
Let’s find Mimi - At home
Written and illustrated by Katherine Lodge
This is a delightful picture book designed to encourage play and talk. The story is confined to a simple rhyming description of Mimi’s day at home whilst waking, getting dressed, having breakfast, and doing various activities with members of her family, until bed time arrives. Whilst there is interest in these episodes, the book is designed principally as a puzzle, with each page showing a host of tiny mice each engaged in the same activity. The challenge is to find Mimi in each illustration. Many children will enjoy scouring each page looking for Mimi. The pictures are full of detail, so there are enormous opportunities for imaginative play and conversation about the various members of Mimi’s family shown on each page.
Written and illustrated by Jane Cabrera
The hero of this tale is Fetch, a little black dog who is rescued from being a stray by
Rosa, and in return proves the most useful of companions
- fetching and carrying things for anyone who needs help. With its bold and
colourful illustrations depicting toy-like characters, Fetch is an ideal read
for younger children who like dogs and enjoy indulging in some of the charming
clichés surrounding our four-legged friends. The simple, repeated action of the
dog’s fetching is in step with this age group’s desire for repetition and the
reward at the end comes when Fetch reveals a litter of puppies to Rosa who
cries “This is the BEST thing you’ve ever fetched!”
Red Riding Hood and the Sweet Little Wolf
Written by Rachael Mortimer
Illustrated by Liz Pichon
Everybody knows that wolves like to eat juicy little girls, but not this wolf! She just loves all things pretty, especially anything pink and fluffy, and she loves stories, much to the despair of her parents who are traditional ‘big bad wolves’. This is a re-telling of the traditional tale of Little Red Riding Hood, but it is a brilliant story that children will enjoy, without any knowledge of the original. The cover illustration tells the reader that this is no ordinary wolf and the illustrations inside are brilliant, bright, cheerful and attractive. This is a wonderful book to read and children will love it.
Harry and the Jaggedy Daggers
Written and illustrated by Jan Fearnley
After Harry, the Harbour Mouse, loses his boat to the Jaggedy Daggers in a storm, he improvises a blue and white teacup to ferry around his cargo and passengers much to the amusement of the river rats. However, when another storm strikes, it is only Harry's ingenious little boat that can save the day and prevent the Jaggedy Daggers from claiming more victims. This is a charming story brought to vibrant life by amusing and detailed illustrations that reward curiosity and careful study, as well as providing lots of opportunity for interaction and sharing. The book includes an ingenious foldout map of
which will fascinate
young readers and offers a tantalising glimpse of potential future stories. Bottlenose
The Pirates Next Door
Written and illustrated by Jonny Duddle
Jonny Duddle won both the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize and Best Picture Book for this fresh, funny, inventive and wry rhyming tale. Matilda lives in Dull-On-Sea, where nothing ever happens, few children live, and life is dull. Then, a new family moves in next door; the Jolley-Rogers with their son, Jim, who is barefoot, and has an eye patch, a wooden legged dog and a pirate ship with treasure chests and barrels full of grog. Matilda loves the life, colour and kindness the pirate family bring. But the townsfolk are appalled, phone lines are hot, gossip grows and a petition demands their departure. This book is tremendous fun; fast-moving, engaging, thought- provoking, and much concerned with how we live and how we judge others. Lively, detailed illustrations amuse and, unusually, reveal as much as the words. A very lovable book for reading aloud. Superb!
Written by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Michael Foreman
Young Raffi lives with a big brother who can do everything! Poor Raffi wishes that there was just one thing that he was good at, but he can’t think of anything at all. One night, when he can’t sleep, he hears a strange voice that belongs to Blue, a blue cat, who takes him on a wonderful journey through the night sky. During this journey Raffi finds his own particular skill. This is a lovely, gentle story about Raffi and Blue. The language is varied and very poetic. The illustrations are a delight. Children will immediately relate to Blue and Raffi and become involved in their adventure.
Written and illustrated by Paul Geraghty
Andersen (R) £5.99
I'm sure that most people who've ever owned a cat have had that feeling that their pet's constant sleeping is a sneaky cover for a secret double life. It seems to his family that all the affectionately named Slobcat ever does is sleep. While the words convey the ponderings of a little girl on the inactivity of her cat, the pictures tell a contrasting story, showing what he really gets up to when no-one's looking. These covert activities include stealing fish from the fishmonger's, saving kittens from drowning, hanging out with mice and other small creatures and chasing off invaders from the garden. Paul Geraghty's characterful depictions of Slobcat's adventures bring to life this charming tale that will appeal to cat lovers everywhere.
Written by Lesley Beake
Illustrated by Erika Pal
Frances Lincoln £11.99
Dad comes home from work one day with a pet for the family. “Brought you a dog” he says, but the children know this is not a dog. It’s a lion, even if Dad can’t see it. They settle the lion-dog into the family and try to hide its lion-like behaviour. However, hiding it from the curiosity of the school bully proves hard, especially as Big Jonno is determined to make life difficult for them. Until one day, the lion-dog escapes and a bully gets his just deserts. Based on stories of the Bushmen from the
in South Africa,
the book has a slightly surreal quality to it but the story is fun and enhanced
by Pal’s gloriously rich illustrations. The fact that the children see a lion
where the adult sees a dog creates humour that will appeal to child readers.
The story has a positive anti-bullying message and the ending has a neat twist
that offers the reader further opportunities for the adult and child to talk.
The Queen’s Knickers
Written and illustrated by Nicholas Allan
Red Fox (R) £5.99
Re-released to coincide with the Queen’s Royal Jubilee year, this humourous classic is still as witty and appealing as when it was first published eleven years ago. Playing on children’s’ inevitable puerile humour, it details all the different underwear that the Queen sports for various occasions - black pants for state funerals, union jack ones for foreign visits, and a special pair with a parachute in for travelling. All of which are guaranteed to raise a chuckle from both parent and child, as well as making HRH seem a whole lot more accessible that she does on the average television broadcast. Allan’s simple watercolours are packed with character and his rosy-cheeked people bring the light-hearted prose to life.
Melric the Magician Who Lost His Magic
Written and illustrated by David McKee
This is exactly what we have come to expect from David McKee, a good story well-told and illustrated in his own well-loved and instantly recognisable style. Melric, the king’s magician, uses his magic to do everything for everyone and nobody else in the kingdom ever has to do a thing. When one morning Melric wakes up to find that his magic has gone and none of his spells will work, the people have to try to get by without magic, but they struggle with even the simplest tasks and there is mayhem everywhere. So, the magician sets off on a journey to seek help. This is a lovely book to share with young children as there is so much to look at in the detailed pictures on every page and all of us, including Melric, have to know that magic should only to be used on very special occasions.
Written by Allan Ahlberg
Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg
This novelty book starts off with an amusing retelling of the well known story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears and then Mr Ahlberg’s wonderful imagination completely takes over and he reinvents the story several times. In the next story Goldilocks encounters 33 bears, not just the usual three, and after that she meets three Blim who live in a spaceship in the woods. The stories themselves are entertaining and delightfully wacky and the book is greatly enhanced by Jessica Ahlberg’s colourful illustrations and also by all the flaps and tags just waiting for small fingers to investigate. There is even a small removable book, which contains yet another version of the story, waiting to be discovered part way through. This is not just a book, it is a whole interactive experience that children will love and it may very well even encourage them to imagine yet more adventures for Goldilocks, or even Little Red Riding Hood, for themselves.
The Fishing Trip
Written and illustrated by Béatrice Rodriguez
This wordless picture book has plenty of scope for the reader to provide the story. Hen, nursing an egg, is informed by her partner, Fox, that there is no food in the house. Consigning the egg to his care, she goes bravely forth to fish for supper and successfully battles against the sea, a bird of prey and a sea monster, but returns with supper. On her return, she sees the broken egg and a frying pan! But all is well, Fox is cuddling their offspring which has safely hatched and a celebratory supper can be enjoyed. I would also recommend this for older pupils studying writing. In the face of a ménage à trois with a crab, a partner who sends his nursing partner out to get the food and the arrival of a newborn , even the most dismissive teenager would find it hard to resist giving you their opinion.
Written by Istvan Banyai
Like Zoom before it, this is a picture book for older readers. Each page contains a colourful and detailed drawn image and each relates closely to the previous image by being located in the same scene, but dramatically zoomed out. So we see that what starts as an archaeologist studying hieroglyphics, ends as a picture in a book on a train journey. It all seems slightly impossible but that’s not really the point. The value is in treating each pair of pictures together and challenging our assumptions as we move through the book. There is no text in this book, but it is a great way to play with visual imagery and help our children to develop a critical eye. The images are different enough to surprise us as we move through the pages, and provide plenty of material for discussion. Leave this out for children to pick up and see what happens and what conversations follow!
Written by Anushka Ravishankar
Illustrated by Gabrielle Manglou
A very contemporary book with a surreal and strange feel about it, Excuses, Excuses is a storytelling poem that follows a young boy, Neel, through a series of naughty escapades for which he has more and more outlandish excuses. Neel is depicted photographically throughout, posing in black and white amongst odd and abstract illustrations and collage. You almost need to digest the imagery on its own before tackling the words; the two together are quite intense. For all its quirkiness, the book is a great introduction to different poetical forms, utilising as it does several different rhyming conventions and meters across the different days of the story. The average child reader will no doubt identify with Neel, and be able to have a giggle at some of his excuses, while for the parent it provides a useful tool for approaching bad behaviour in a non-aggressive way.
Taka-chan and I: A Dog’s Journey to
Written by Betty Jean Lifton
Photographs by Eikoh Hosoe
Frances Lincoln Ltd £9.99
Betty Jean Lifton tells us this story just as it was told to her by Runcible, a rather amazing Weimaraner dog. Runcible was digging in the sand near his home one day when he found himself in a tunnel. He carried on through the darkness until he emerged into the daylight once more and discovered he was in
There he met Taka-chan, a little girl who was being held captive by the Black
Dragon of the Sea, and in order to secure her freedom Runcible accepted the
challenge to find the most loyal person in Japan and lay a white flower at his
or her feet. Runcible and Taka-chan set off for Tokyo to begin their search. This story of
friendship and loyalty is beautifully presented. The language is clear and
simple and Eikoh Hosoe’s stunning, large black and white photos illustrate the
two friends’ journey to Tokyo,
their adventures in the city and their growing affection for each other. Some
readers may find the story hard to believe but Runcible has an answer for that.
He says “who is to say what a dream is and what is real?”
Every Little Thing
Adapted by Cedella Marley
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Chronicle Books (eB) £10.99
This is an original interpretation of Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds from the classic album Exodus. Marley’s daughter has taken the refrain Every little thing is gonna be alright and expanded this into a lively, uplifting picture book. The energetic and brightly coloured illustrations provide a fitting accompaniment to the positive message of the song.
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Written by Crockett Johnson
Harper Collins (R) (eB) £6.99
First published over fifty years ago this children’s classic is reprinted here in a larger format and will delight readers of all ages. The illustrations are bright and full of vitality and the story unforgettable. Harold sets out on a night-time adventure with only a purple crayon for company. Whatever he draws comes to life. This is a ‘must have’ and will evoke lovely memories in fans and stir imaginations everywhere.
Two Shy Pandas
Written by Julia Jarman
Illustrated by Susan Varley
They say pandas are shy and these two, although next door neighbours and longing to play together, are just too shy to make the first move. Then, it snows and both of them take courage. The gentle winter pictures give us scenes of anyone’s garden play and the story tells of anyone’s desire for a friend. The bamboo grove is a bonus.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
Written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Pavilion (R) £10.99
Irresistible tunes and witty words will delight everyone. Abundantly illustrated by an easily recognised artist in a magnificently colourful setting, this book is set to be a true family favourite.
Written and illustrated by Michael Foreman
Cat can wander wild and free, but his friend, Bubble, is confined to a goldfish bowl. Cat transfers him to a small bucket to show him the wonderful world and then gets the idea to set Bubble free so he too can be wild and free. But Bubble is not ready to swim away because he values his friendship with Cat more than his freedom. A very gentle story of true friendship told with few words and soft, glowing illustrations! A book to treasure from a great author and a wonderful illustrator.
Sinead and Martin Kromer