Encouraging Exploration 1: Gregory Goose Adventures by Hilary Robinson, Illustrated by Mandy Stanley

Cover image by Mandy Stanley, published by Catch a Star
Cover image by Mandy Stanley, published by Catch a Sta

With so much evidence based research pointing to the positive benefits of reading on mental health, educational outcomes and development of empathy it is so important to encourage a love of books in children from a young age. These two latest titles in the Gregory Goose series are perfect for sharing with toddlers and pre-schoolers to help develop an intrinsic love of books. As with everything from Catch a Star/New Frontier Publishing they are made with the highest production values; printed on quality thick card, with eye-catching shiny highlights on the covers and made to a perfect size for a pre-schooler to hold comfortably.

I had the privilege to meet both the author Hilary Robinson and illustrator, Mandy Stanley earlier this year and I know how much effort they put into their collaboration to perfectly combine the simple rhyming text and pictures so that they perfectly complement each other. Hilary’s text is written with precise rhyme and rhythm and I love the way that she does not compromise on vocabulary so that children are introduced to words such as chalet, clinging and zooming. Mandy’s illustrations are full of colour and energy and feature the most sartorially elegant fowl in fiction! The end result are books which will give endless hours of pleasure to children and adult readers alike.

The pictures are full of detail, in stunningly vibrant colours blending simple shapes with more detailed artwork. For example in Gregory Goose is on the Loose Up the Mountain the pine trees are portrayed as both simple green triangles and also as beautifully detailed branches of pine needles and pine cones. Triangles are in evidence throughout this book, as flags on the ski slopes, the rooftops of chalets and of course Gregory’s beak. This gives opportunities for discussing shape and number as well as the huge opportunities for chat about the action taking place on every page. In Gregory Goose is on the Loose At the Fair the pictures are full of circles: lights on the rides and attractions, round windows on the rocket ship ride, toffee apples and the Hoopla hoops. Finally, I should mention that these are “seek and find” books with the challenge to discover Gregory’s whereabouts on every page – there are hints in the text, but it is not always easy! With so much detail to observe, Gregory Goose certainly encourages children to concentrate on the page, thus building a stamina which will be required to develop reading skills.

If you are the parent, grandparent, Godparent or in any way related to pre-school children, do put these on your Christmas/birthday shopping list, you will be making a hugely positive contribution to the future of any child with whom you share these books.

For my reviews of other books in the Gregory Goose is on the Loose series, please click here.

I am grateful to New Frontier Publishing/Catch a Star for sending me copies of these titles in exchange for an honest review.

In My Dreams by Stef Gemmill and Tanja Stephani – Blog Tour

In My Dreams front cover, published by New Frontier Publishing June 2020

I was fortunate to get an advanced glimpse at this beautiful book at a bloggers event hosted by New Frontier Publishing back in February. The glorious jewel-coloured cover, with its gold foil highlights marks it out as a book to treasure; it is crammed with happy imagination, brought to life in Tanja Stephani’s tender and joyous illustrations.

I am delighted to be able to bring you a Q&A with illustrator Tanja, conducted via email, with the help of Henry at New Frontier.

Firstly, Tanja, can I congratulate you on the beautiful illustrations you have created for In My Dreams. I was lucky enough to be invited to a bloggers event in February and everyone there was drawn to this book, almost like bees to a particularly attractive flower!

Thank you so much for that, I received the book today in the mail and I’m really totally happy with the result!

How did you collaborate with author Stef Gemmill to communicate her vision for the story and how long did it take you to illustrate this book?

I actually didn’t speak with Stef Gemmill, I was invited to collaborate with a lovely Agency called Plum Pudding, and after 3 weeks I had this wonderful opportunity to sign the contract for this lovely story.

As I read the book, I found that some of the illustrations sparked memories of books that I had read as bedtime stories to my children, was this your intention? 

I’m sure I am inspired by a lot of children’s memories! But when I was reading the text for the first time, most of the pictures came immediately to my mind.

I absolutely love the picture of the boy riding his dragon over the dancing elephants; do you have a favourite picture in the book?

Oh yes, I love the cover very much. And now with the glitter it’s amazing – the art director did a wonderful job as well. 

How did you produce the illustrations for this book, do you start on paper and transfer to digital illustration?

First I started with the marshmallow page and worked only by hand, but then my sister got very ill and I had to work in the hospital sometimes too, so I decided to create the whole book on the iPad.

Do you have a favourite medium for creating your artwork, and has it changed over your career?

I’m an art supply “junky”. I love to try new things out, but mostly I end up using pastel, water colours, colour pencils and then I finish things off with the iPad.

How did you become a children’s book illustrator and was this always your ambition?

Yes it was always a dream for sure, but I started with a graphic design career and then moved on to art stuff like creating giant dragons for playgrounds or lamps for children’s rooms, paper objects, fine art etc… finally after 30 years I became a children’s illustrator.  

Do you have a favourite artist or illustrator and was there anyone who particularly encouraged your development as an artist when you were younger?

I think I’ve always had an artist’s soul…creating small worlds and trying out every kind of material. The teachers didn’t like me very much at this time. I always changed the assignment and had a better idea as an example. They wanted us to make a little dwarf made of felt, but I decided to create a big, big dragon. I worked on it over the whole weekend. 

My favourite children’s book artists in my childhood were Tomi Ungerer, Tatjana Hauptmann, Hans Fischer, Jean de Brunhoff, Maurice Sendak and of course Alois Carigiet.

What advice would you give to a child (and I would have been in this group) who struggles to get started when they are asked to draw something at school?

Oh that’s a good question… I worked a lot with children in schools and I never asked them to start drawing with something. We always started with kind of traces on paper, backgrounds of brushes that danced over the paper and other different ways to create backgrounds, so every child was able to see something coming out from that background and the question was answered.

Thank you for answering my questions and I wish you much success with In My Dreams; I can’t wait to share this wonderful book with children in my library.

Thank you so much for asking me, it was pleasure!

And here is my review:

The story begins (and ends) in a young boy’s bedroom, stuffed with toys and shaded in muted blue tones with his bed suffused in moonlight as he sleeps with his dog snuggled up on the covers. Each fully-illustrated double page spread takes you on a fantastical journey through the boy’s dreams, with simple sentences meandering across the pages. We accompany the boy and his faithful dog across rainbow-dappled marshmallow clouds, through rain and puddles made of sweet treats,, to the ocean floor and through jungles. My favourite page shows them gathering treasure…but no, it is not the gold coins or jewels we might expect, but rather “kisses and kindness from the island of Love”

This would make a wonderful bedtime story; Stef Gemmill’s sentences are filled with assonance and gentle rhythm, lulling any child to whom you read this into a tranquil state. I can think of no higher praise than to say that as I read it aloud (to an empty room) I was transported back 23 years to reading “Goodnight Moon” to my own children. In a preschool or Reception class this book would be a wonderful prompt for a discussion about dreams, it would be interesting to find out if children find that some of the pictures are redolent of bedtime stories that they already know. Some of the pictures certainly set me wondering whether the boy’s dreams were being influenced by some well-known bedtime story books.

You can watch a trailer of Tanja Stephani creating her artwork here

I am most grateful to New Frontier Publishing for sending me a copy of In My Dreams to review.

Do check out the other stops on the blog tour this week, with reviews and interviews from an amazing list of children’s book bloggers.

Review: Boo Loves Books by Kaye Baillie, illustrated by Tracie Grimwood

Front cover of Boo Loves Books, illustration by Tracie Grimwood, Published by New Frontier Publishing

As we mark #EmpathyDay2020 today, it seemed the perfect time to post a review of this gorgeous picture book which demonstrates empathy throughout. Firstly there is the kind teacher, Miss Spinelli, who recognises Phoebe’s anxiety about reading and decides to take the class on a trip away from the classroom to read to a non-judgemental audience in an unusual location. Then we see Phoebe’s mum recognising her reluctance to participate in the trip and reassuring her that she is going to have a wonderful time. Next, the small but significant action of her best friend giving her hand a squeeze; showing children that sometimes even the tiniest gesture can mean so much to someone. Finally, Phoebe’s recognition that Big Boo, despite his enormous size is every bit as anxious as she is and her recognition of a kindred spirit helping her through her difficulties.

Kaye Baillie’s story has a heart-warming outcome, showing young children the positive impact of empathy. The charming illustrations by Tracie Grimwood give the impression that they have been created with colouring pencils, the muted shades perfectly matched to the tone of the story. The transformation of Phoebe’s nervous facial expressions and body language to a face suffused with smiles is deeply touching. At a time when even the youngest children display anxieties at the strange conditions we are all operating under, stories such as Boo Loves Books, with a message of quiet reassurance are invaluable.

I highly recommend this book for any pre-school or Key Stage One’s collection of books to read for empathy and if you are looking for a book to share at home with a child of 3-6 years old, then add this to your shopping list!

My thanks to New Frontier Publishing for sending me a copy of Boo Loves Books in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Winnie and Wilbur books by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Winnie Bug Safari

In The Bug Safari Winnie the Witch and her big black cat Wilbur are enjoying the most magnificent picnic in the garden when fallen scone crumbs cause a rustling in the undergrowth and an organised column of ants arrived to claim their prize. A host of other insects fascinate Winnie, who impetuously decides that in order to get a better look she should shrink herself and Wilbur to insect proportions.

The resulting perilous adventure will entrance young readers and listeners, as Winnie and Wilbur dodge multiple hazards in their quest to return to their normal size! The vibrant illustrations overflow with detail about the insect kingdom, the bugs almost rivalling Winnie in their multi-coloured costumes.

This is a book to be opened flat on the carpet and surrounded by young children who will find almost countless wonders to marvel at – oh for the days before social distancing. I recently used the book as a prompt to going on a garden bug hunt for a videoed Google classroom segment, and there are many other counting and sorting activities which could stem from this beautiful book.

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Delightfully, the wonderful folk at OUP Children’s have issued Winnie and Wilbur Stay at Home as a free e-book for anyone to download during lockdown. You can access it from the link here.

This book is an absolute hoot, with Winnie’s attempts at joining in with an online exercise session being my highlight (probably because it’s rather similar to certain attempts in my house)!

Children will recognise all the adjustments to activities that they have had to make, reflected in Winnie and Wilbur’s household. This book shows them how to find the joy in singing songs whilst hand-washing, covering the house in rainbows and simply enjoying stories. Winnie really is an utterly joyous character with her multi-coloured fashion choices and accessories and this book is overflowing with good humour to put a smile on the faces of children and adults staying inside to keep the country safe.

With thanks to OUP Children’s Books for my copy of Winnie and Wilbur: The Bug Safari in exchange for an honest review.

Dragons for St George’s Day!

I thought that for St George’s Day I would give a shout-out to my favourite dragons in MG literature. So, in no particular order, here they are:

 

Dragon in LibraryIn  The Dragon in the Library  by Louie Stowell, we meet Draca, the giant sleeping dragon who resides deep under The Chatsworth Library where librarian Faith allows her young apprentice Kit, and her two best friends Alita and Josh into the secret of library dragons. I love the idea of a dragon being kept happily asleep by visiting librarians reading her stories, and the theory that profoundly shocking world events occur when dragons are awoken from their slumbers. Quite wonderfully, this book also features Dogon, a cute half-dog, half-dragon, who I sincerely wish lived in my little school library! Perfect for newly confident readers of 7+, or as a whole class story.

book dragonThe Book Dragon  by  Kell Andrews, features a dragon who remains nameless throughout the story. In this book which again celebrates the joy of reading, an important message is delivered about thinking for yourself. The town has banned books and indeed anything written on paper for fear of the Book Dragon who lives on the outskirts of town. It is said that she will appear to steal your books and then return the following night to search for more. However, when Rosehilda investigates for herself, she finds that the bookish dragon has entirely different motives and a happy solution is found to suit all parties. This picture book is ideal for children of 4+.

 

 

IMG_3401Dirk Dilly the hero of Dragon Detective: Catnapped by Gareth P Jones, fits all the tropes of a private investigator from the classic black and white movies. Sitting with his feet up on the desk of his unkempt, office with smoke unfurling from his nostrils, I can absolutely imagine him talking out of the side of his mouth with Humphrey Bogart’s voice! Of course Dirk Dilly has actually exhaled that smoke because he is a dragon! To be precise: an urban-dwelling, green-bellied, red-backed mountain dragon. Although projecting a hardened, cynical shell, his soft heart is slowly revealed as he works alongside his young client (Holly Bigsby) to unravel the mystery of the disappearing cats. A funny, exciting story for children of 8+.

 

RumblestarFrom Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone, Arlo the miniature, blue dragon who belongs to impulsive and reckless Utterly Thankless. must be one of the cutest dragons to appear in literature. Although tiny, there is no doubting Arlo’s huge heart as he demonstrates true bravery in protecting  both Utterly and Casper Tock, a nervous but ultimately heroic boy who has accidentally stumbled into the kingdom of Rumblestar. Arlo is one of many things to love in this exciting and imaginative adventure. Suitable for children of 8+.

 

 

Harry PotThere are a number of dragons to choose from in the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling but my personal favourite is Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback, hatched from an egg by Hagrid in the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  Hagrid has wanted a dragon all his life and ignores the ruling, against owning them, by the Warlock’s Council of 1709 when presented with the opportunity to hatch a large black dragon egg. I love the way that JK Rowling wrote this magical creature into the story, and in so doing provided a marvellous insight into the character of Hagrid, a true giant of MG literature. The image of Hagrid bucket-feeding Norbert with a mixture of hen’s blood and brandy has remained lodged in my mind since I first read this book to my children nineteen years ago!

boy grew dragonsIf you happen to discover an unusual looking, spiky, plant with yellow and orange tendrils resembling bursts of flame in your vegetable patch, then, beware. You too might be about to grow dragons like Tomas, The Boy Who Grew Dragons written by Andy Shepherd. You’d better hope that they turn out like Flicker, the cutest little dragon ever to hatch from a dragon fruit, with his smoky little hiccups and out-of-control arrowhead tail. Of course, having a pet dragon can have drawbacks and there are plenty of comic moments to laugh at in this wonderfully entertaining book for anyone of 7/8+.

 

 

Smaug from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien the majestically avaricious dragon from The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet  by Martin Howard are rather less cute and cuddly than those previously mentioned. Both sharing an obsession with guarding a sizeable haul of treasure and behaving in a less than welcoming manner to those they suspect of coveting their hoards! Both of these fearsome reptilians stand in the way of the heroes being able to fulfil their quests. Can Bilbo Baggins and Alfie Fleet outwit their dragon foes? If you want an exciting, mythical quest read The Hobbit, if you like laughs and adventure in equal measure, read The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet!

Do you have a favourite Dragon? Which dragons have I missed? Let me know in the comments below.

New Picture Books from Little Steps

Little Steps Publishing have released some gorgeous new books for Spring 2020 and I am grateful to Lucy for sending them through for me to review.

 

Brave Adventures, Little Girl by Iresha Herath, illustrated by Oscar Fa

brave little girl

Four year old Anika loves to visit her grandparents each Sunday afternoon. She knows that she will be welcomed with hugs and laughter and shared food and stories. The gentle, simple text by Iresha Herath and beautiful digital illustration by Oscar Fa perfectly convey a loving bond between the generations of a family.

When Anika tries to demonstrate her newly learned skill of hopscotch to grandfather Seeya and grandmother Achi, she becomes nervous, loses her balance and hurts her arm. She then admits to Seeya that she wishes she could be as brave as he was when he had adventures all over the world in his youth. She gets a funny feeling in her tummy when she tries something new and thinks she has no bravery at all.

In his kindly way, Seeya explains that in each of his youthful adventures he had to face new challenges and that he always had a funny feeling in his tummy at those moments; bravery means recognising the challenge of something new and then doing it. These stories are wide ranging, opening new cultural experiences to young children, and all told with a wonderful sparkle of humour. The illustrated country maps are striking and I particularly loved the painting of Enzo Ferrari!

This is a perfect book to enjoy sharing with young children. The author’s Sri Lankan/Australian heritage provides an awareness of different cultures, the family dynamic is portrayed in a lovingly positive light, children will delight in the humour and it is a great discussion starter for conversations about confronting fears. Highly recommended for everyone of 4+.

Where Do Teachers Go At Night? By Harriet Cuming, illustrated by Sophie Nora

Where teacher go at night

Written by a teacher with many years’ of experience, this hugely amusing picture book with bouncy rhyming text reveals the secret life of teachers after the classroom door has closed for the day! The illustrations are perfectly designed, resembling a mixture of watercolour and crayon familiar to all who work in primary schools. They portray the activities with great humour and children will love spotting the accessories that highlight each teacher’s personality and speciality. In addition, this book falls into the category of teaching children new facts without them even realising it, with the action taking place all over the world and a summary map at the end. 

I can see this book being extremely popular with young children and providing a creative spark for their own ideas about what their teacher might do out of hours!

Where Else Do Teachers Go At Night? By Harriet Cuming, illustrated by Sophie Nora

where else teacher go at night

Not content with their many adventures in Book 1, the intrepid and energetic teachers are off around the world on a new set of out-of-hours adventures! Again Harriet Cuming’s amusing, rhyming text is perfectly complemented by Sophie Nora’s colourful and richly detailed artwork. The locations ranging from the Andes, to Cork to Outer Mongolia are rendered with humorous geographical detail which both amuses and educates.

This is a book which will reward repeated readings and provides many fascinating details for young children to explore.

 

Little Steps Publishing provide teacher’s notes which include ideas for artwork and classroom activities based on these two books, you can find them here:

http://d.site-cdn.net/6cd93335c8/a13ed7/5589-where-do-teachers-go-at-night-teaching-notes.pdf

 

Blog Tour: Extraordinary! written by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Katie Wilson

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Welcome to my stop on the Extraordinary! blog tour. I am very grateful that I had the chance to ask Penny Harrison some questions about her inspiration for this wonderful book. Here are her answers:

This book abounds with an appreciation of the natural world, does this stem from your own childhood?

Yes! I grew up on a cattle farm in the middle of New South Wales, in Australia. It was an incredible place, in the Capertee Valley, surrounded by the bluest mountains.

We really did experience four seasons there and each season bought something special, whether it was exploring and camping in the bush in spring and swimming in the creek in summer, or picking fruit for homemade jam in autumn and hunting for natural treasures while collecting kindling for the fire in winter.

I felt a strong sense of place in this natural world from an early age.

Could you tell UK readers what life is like on an Australian farm?

I was five years old when we first moved to the farm. It was in the middle of one of Australia’s worst droughts and all I can remember is the dust and driving around on the back of a truck, feeding hay to the cattle.

I learned to read when I was very young and escaped into books, like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables, where nature was pretty and lush.

But the drought eventually broke – the hills turned green, the trees in the orchard were laden with fruit, and the rivers and creeks started flowing. At times they even flooded, cutting us off from the nearest town.

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We had plenty of pets, including a poddy calf, a joey kangaroo, a milking cow, and various guinea pigs, rabbits and chickens.

We would catch a bus to the nearest primary school, which usually took about an hour (including a bumpy 15-minute drive along our dirt driveway).

For high school, we were sent to boarding school in Sydney. But, being a shy homebody (and a country girl at heart), I didn’t last long and ended up doing most of my schooling by correspondence, which involved packages of work being sent to me in the mail.

I read in your biography that you have written for many audiences, what drew you to children’s picture books?

I’ve mostly written for newspapers and magazines, covering every thing from courts and police rounds to gardens and interiors. But the thing with journalism is that you’re telling other people’s stories and often using their words.

I’ve always loved children’s books and am completely obsessed with illustration (I would so love to be able to draw). It just took me a long time to realise that these were the stories I wanted to tell, and even longer to build up the confidence to try writing them.

Why did you choose to write this book in rhyme?

It honestly just came out that way. The concept didn’t begin as a rhyming story, but when I started, I found it really wanted to rhyme. Some stories are stubborn like that.

What message would you like your readers to take away from Extraordinary!?

That the little moments in life are what matter most. We can strive for success and grandeur, but being able to notice and treasure the ‘ordinary’ is what will ultimately fulfil us. And what we need more of in this world.

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For years I’ve had a quote from William Martin (beautifully illustrated by children’s author/illustrator Jess Racklyeft) pinned to my wall and this was the inspiration for Extraordinary:

Penny Harrison

How closely did you work with the illustrator, Katie Wilson, and what do you think about the way she has illustrated your story?

About six years ago, I started following Katie’s beautiful work on Facebook and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’d love to see her illustrate a picture book’. When I heard that I’d been paired with Katie for one of my own books, I was blown away. Katie worked with the publisher and designer. I simply sent her effusive messages every time I saw some of the pages. What she’s done is exquisite.

What were your favourite picture books from your own childhood, and do you have any favourites that you shared with your own children?

I was a big Shirley Hughes fan as a child. I adored Dogger, but my favourite was probably Sally’s Secret, about a little girl who finds a secret cubby hidden in the garden. I spent a lot of my childhood creating similar cubbies. My son and I loved reading Koala Lou (Mem Fox and Pamela Lofts) and anything by Dr Seuss. And my daughter and I both adored Peggy (Anna Walker), Sadie (Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad), and Ada Twist Scientist (Andrea Beaty and David Roberts). We still do.

Do you have a particular writing space in your home?

I have a lovely big old table for a desk that looks out into my garden, but, to be honest, I don’t often write there. Usually, I’m scribbling notes while waiting in the car to pick up one of the kids, sitting outside with a cup of tea, or unable to sleep in the middle of the night!

Can you tell us what you will be working on next?

I have a couple of picture book ideas that I’m working on and a concept for a junior fiction series that I’d love to explore.

Thank you so very much Penny for this insight into the background to Extraordinary! I cannot wait to read your next picture book. In the meantime, here is my review of Extraordinary!

This amazing picture book encourages children to appreciate the beauty of nature and the everyday moments which make life extraordinary.

Firstly, you have to take a few moments to linger over the glorious hardback cover. The stunning woodland scene painted in rich autumnal colours, with small details such as leaf spines picked out in foil is so evocative that you can almost smell the loamy scent of the forest floor as the young boy and his dog explore it.

Penny Harrison has written the entire book in gentle rhyme, with a soothing rhythm that lulls you into a meditative recognition of the simple pleasures of life.

The accompanying artwork by Katie Wilson immerses the reader initially into open landscapes where the imagination is invited to soar like an eagle as your wishes expand to the horizons. Then, from these grand vistas the story moves to the domestic, where simple indoor pleasures like relaxing with a bookcase full of wonders in a cosy lounge are to be treasured. Outside, the focus zooms in to observe the antics of insects exploring a blade of grass, or the delight to be found in inhaling the scents of a spring day and observing new life bursting forth. On every page there are joyous depictions of the life-enhancing experience of appreciating the natural world throughout the seasons, with numerous tiny details to find, which will reward re-readers of this book. The words and pictures are in complete harmony as they encourage a feeling of deep gratitude for precious moments in life.

 

As we learn to appreciate the benefits of children spending time exploring the natural world for the benefit of their mental and physical health, and as we encourage them to enjoy and protect their environment, this book will be a wonderful addition to any primary school classroom or library and indeed to any home picture book collection. In a world where even the youngest children are spending large amounts of time staring at screens, this book is a welcome reminder to relish the fleeting special moments of connection with nature.

 

Thank you to New Frontier Publishing UK for my review copy of Extraordinary! and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

Perfect and Timely Picture Books

Little Puggle’s Song written by Vikki Conley and illustrated by Hélène Magisson

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I am ashamed to say that I have had this picture book in my reviewing stack for rather a long time and was prompted to retrieve it by the recent heart-breaking reports of the devastation wreaked by the bush fires in Australia. It goes without saying that I have immense sympathy for all of the people affected, but it is also very upsetting to see so much of the unique flora and fauna of Australia destroyed so rapidly and in such quantity.

This story of one little echidna’s determination to follow his dreams becomes all the more poignant in the light of such a  background. Vikki Conley has written a wonderfully gentle tale of Puggle’s desire to sing like all the other animals. This shy little creature is desperate to join the animal choir to sing for the arrival of the emu chicks. He watches in wonder as animals and birds rehearse for their performance; bluebirds, doves, cockatoos, kangaroos and koalas all conducted by the kookaburra known as Brown Feather. He summons the courage to ask for a place in the choir, but he does not have the ability to make a sound. However, when Brown Feather becomes ill at the last moment, Little Puggle’s dedication might just pay off!

Throughout this story the beautiful artwork of Hélène Magisson imbues the story with life and energy. Native flora and fauna are painted in subdued, earthy tones and will provide hours of wonder as they are explored. A gorgeous tale of the importance of following your heart, for young readers and a reminder for us all of the beauty and fragility of the natural world.

 

Under the Same Sky written by Robert Vescio, illustrated by Nicky Johnston

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Another poignant picture book, with very few carefully constructed sentences by the author Robert Vescio, comparing and contrasting the lives of two children as they endeavour to build a friendship from opposite sides of the world. The astonishing artwork, by Nicky Johnston, in muted watercolour tones cleverly highlights the very different environments in which the two children live. One is clearly in an affluent society while the other child appears to be in a barren place, with barbed wire possibly hinting at a conflict zone. The determination to find a way of communication, and send a message of hope is portrayed with such sensitivity that I am sure this book will provoke deep conversations about cultural differences and long-distance friendships.

 

I am most grateful to New Frontier Publishing for sending me copies of these picture books in return for an honest review.

Brilliant Board Books!

This post concentrates on vibrant new arrivals for the very youngest book “readers” which will provide perfect material for book sharing opportunities and are produced with such quality and care, by the Little Stars imprint, that they will be enjoyed repeatedly by the toddler in your life.

Let’s Go! On a Ferry and Let’s Go! On a Rocket, written by Rosalyn Albert, illustrated by Natalia Moore.

Firstly, two books from the “Let’s Go” series written by Rosalyn Albert and illustrated by Natalia Moore. These two books reflect the author’s obvious passion for travel in engaging tales featuring different forms of transport. The stories are written in rhyming text, introducing technical vocabulary in a fun and gentle way. The quality of the writing is glorious, so as the children travel in the ferry they describe it thus “We skim like pebbles over waves.” Natalia Moore’s lively illustrations perfectly complement the text. You can almost feel the sea-spray on your face as you travel “On a Ferry” and who wouldn’t want to travel “On a Rocket” to meet the friendly, bug-eyed aliens.

GREGORY GOOSE is on the loose! In the Jungle and GREGORY GOOSE is on the loose! On the Moon written by Hilary Robinson and illustrated by Mandy Stanley

 

 

 

In this series of travel-related books, Hilary Robinson’s creation Gregory Goose ventures to far-flung destinations where he loves to hide himself amongst the local inhabitants, providing young children with the challenge to find him on each page. The bright and bold illustrations by Mandy Stanley invite hours of observation as they bring the quest to life. The jungle creatures have such expressive faces, whilst the vegetation seems to burst from the page with life. As intrepid Gregory ventures beyond earth’s atmosphere in a colourful space craft there are multi-hued planets and cute aliens to gaze upon as young readers search for Gregory. I love the way that these books introduce the youngest children to different habitats hopefully setting them on a life-long quest for knowledge.

 

I am very grateful to New Frontier and Little Steps Publishing for sending me copies of these titles in exchange for an honest review.

Christmas Crackers – Five Beautiful Picture Books!

As December arrives I present a selection of newly published, seasonal picture books to entertain young children as the big day approaches!

Santa’s High Tech Christmas written by Mike Dumbleton, illustrated by Angela Perrini

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A totally enjoyable, rhyming, seasonal tale, beautifully illustrated in muted tones by Angela Perrini. Santa has gone high-tech, loading his present list onto a techno-pad, which is great … until he drops his gadget and the screen goes blank! Fortunately, there is a digitally literate young girl, waiting at her window, who is able to help him out.

A charming story, sure to be enjoyed by children and adults alike in the weeks before the stockings are filled!

The Night Before Christmas written by Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Helene Magisson

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I can’t imagine that there is anyone for whom the Christmas season is not improved by a re-reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem. In this newly published edition the illustrations by Helene Magisson feature the jolliest of Saint Nicks, snowy landscapes and a marvellous set of stockings awaiting a special visitor.

Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding by Alex Field, illustrated by Peter Garnavas

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How about introducing young readers to the characters from Pride and Prejudice through a seasonal tale where families come together to participate in “Stir-up Sunday”? In this case the well loved classical characters have been transposed to appropriate animals, Mr Darcy is a top-hatted duck, whilst Mr Collins is a poorly behaved cat! This book would make an excellent illustration of the changing traditions of Christmas throughout history, as it presents the making of the family Christmas pudding (which had been re-introduced by George I) and demonstrates the importance of charitable behaviour at Christmas as Mr Darcy allows Mr Collins into the house to participate in the festivities.

Santa’s Tight Squeeze by Alex Field, illustrated by Karen Erasmus

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I’m sure that a few of us will recognise the situation in which poor Santa finds himself, one too many treats in the run-up to Christmas Day and suddenly you can’t quite fit into something! Only in his case it isn’t a party frock, it’s a chimney pot!

As his travels down various chimneys become ever more troublesome, Santa realises that he needs to change his behaviour, so he begins sharing the delicious treats with his friends. The illustrations by Karen Erasmus beautifully illuminate the story, and small children will enjoy spotting famous landmarks as Santa travels the world.

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise by Mark Carthew, illustrated by Simon Prescott

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A heart warming, rhyming Christmas story filled with the warmth of friendship and kindness. This sumptuously illustrated book follows two mice, Marvin and Marigold as they decorate Marigold’s Christmas tree; the discovery of each decoration evoking happy memories of Christmases past. A gorgeous treat to share with young children during the Advent season.

 

My thanks to New Frontier Publishing for this selection of Christmas treats to review.