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.

Review: The Nature Girls by Aki

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I picked up this book as the cover transported me back to one of my favourite childhood series, the Madeline books, with their iconic description of “little girls in two straight lines.” This time the girls are dressed in pith helmets and yellow safari suits and they travel further afield, but the book has exactly the same warmth and feel-good factor.

The Nature Girls tell the tale of their explorations in rhyming sentences, as they leave their school building with rucksacks packed ready for their adventures. Starting on a tropical beach they dive beneath the ocean to meet a pod of dolphins and numerous fish. Onward into the jungle they trek to look at birds, followed by expeditions to the desert, the savannah, the Arctic and finally a great forest.

Every page is illustrated in a bright, bold style, with only two rhyming sentences which are printed with imaginative font effects. The writer and illustrator Aki has included a wealth of detail in the illustrations which will reward repeated viewing. The final pages explain, in simple and straightforward terms, the biomes featured throughout the book.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents and librarians to share with pre-school and Key Stage 1 children. The sixteen Nature Girls will inspire an early interest in the natural world and all of its diversity. I would have loved to read this to my own children had it been available when they were little!