Perfect Picture Books JoJo’s Jump and Karma and Koo, from Little Steps Publishing

Published by Little Steps Publishing, illustrations by Natalie Merheb and Emma Stuart

I love receiving book post from Little Steps Publishing because I know that I will always find books of the highest quality within the package. Their new releases for January 2022 live up to the usual high standards; enjoyable and meaningful stories with beautiful illustrations, designed to appeal to the youngest book consumers.

Cover illustration by Natalie Merheb

JoJo’s Jump is written in simple rhyming couplets by Stephanie Mason and promotes the message of self-belief and the benefit of a positive learning mindset through the character of a young pony, JoJo. It is such a clever device to use an animal character as the protagonist, allowing all children to absorb the positive messages as they feel empathy with a character with universal appeal. Jojo is depicted in Natalie Merheb’s colourful illustrations as a gorgeous young pony with a “soft chestnut coat” and long golden tail and mane. As she grows and begins her equestrian training she is supported by a cast of super cute animal friends: Bob the fluffy white bunny; Fiona the friendly frog and Peggy the curly haired sheep. The full coloured spreads and spots on every page are bursting with farmyard flora and fauna for young children to explore and talk about.

I really loved the fact that Jojo does not succeed on her first attempt to jump a fence and has the be encouraged to find the inner resolve to have another go. This is such an important lesson for children to learn and I suspect will be readily absorbed as the story of JoJo’s Jump is enjoyed over and over again. Highly recommended for all children of 3-6, whether at home, nursery early years classrooms or in the library.

You can find teachers’ notes and activities to accompany JoJo’s Jump on the Little Steps website here

Cover illustration by Emma Stuart

Karma and Koo, written by Jacquie Lait and illustrated by Emma Stuart would be the most perfect book to share as a bedtime story, especially in the middle of winter! It features two adorable penguins, a mother and child, and begins with the child penguin asking who the “Koo” is, mentioned in the name of mother’s shop. Mother tells her child to search for Koo within the shop, which sparks and imaginative quest through the contents of a large wooden toy box contained at the back of the lovely, old-fashioned shop. The watercolour paintings by Emma Stuart are divine, the little penguin has such an expressive face, and the imaginative exploration through its toy box is depicted with details which I am sure will draw young children into the story.

The combination of soothing rhyme and rhythm and a story spilling over with love and warmth makes Karma and Koo the ideal book for snuggling up and sharing with any child of 2-5. I would have loved to have had this as part of the bedtime books box when my own children were small, I am sure it would have been worn out with re-reading!

The publisher has provided teaching notes and activities to accompany Karma and Koo here.

I am most grateful to Little Steps publishing for providing me with review copies of JoJo’s Jump and Karma & Koo in exchange for my honest opinion.

PictureBook Review: The Happy Mask written by Aimee Chan, illustrated by Angela Perrini

Cover art by Angela Perrini, published by Little Steps Publishing

This beautifully written and illustrated book explores the issues caused by mask-wearing for the youngest members of society. It is very hard to imagine the emotional impact that having to wear a mask, or being surrounded by mask-wearing grown-ups has had on children who have spent the majority of their lives living under Covid-19 restrictions. I am sure that many will relate to Maggie, the protagonist of this story. She is bored at home, wishes that she could be at school with her friends instead of being “shushed” by her dad when he is on a business call and most of all, does not want to wear her mask. It makes her face itchy and she thinks that people in masks look mean! Fortunately, Maggie’s dad comes up with a simple solution, he draws a huge smile onto Maggie’s mask and from that moment, Maggie walks around the town spreading happiness.

Aimee Chan has a wonderful talent for capturing a child’s perspective and pinning it to the page in carefully chosen description and dialogue. Her simple but impactful text is brilliantly accompanied by Angela Perrini’s glorious artwork. The full-page spreads in this book depict a multi-ethnic and multi-age cast of characters going about their daily tasks wearing the ubiquitous medical masks. I love the blend of facial close-ups, bird’s-eye-view and semi-deserted streetscapes in her illustrations.

This is another essential book for school and nursery classrooms, one in which children can identify their own experiences and begin to discuss and make sense of them.

If you enjoy The Happy Mask, do look out for My Grandma is 100, by the same author-illustrator partnership, which cleverly shows up in an advertisement in one of the illustrations and is an equally lovely story to share with pre-school and early years children.

My thanks to Little Steps Publishing for sending me a copy of The Happy Mask to review.

Review: Harriet’s Expanding Heart written by Rachel Brace, illustrated by Angela Perrini

Cover art by Angela Perrini, published by Little Steps Publishing

The importance of giving children the vocabulary they need to express their feelings has been recognised in this wonderful book authored by Rachel Brace. As a psychologist, Rachel works with families experiencing the pain of divorce and she has brought her expertise to this story. It tells the tale of Harriet, who has “two homes, two parents, two different bedrooms, one school and a pet cat named Ginger.”

Although her parents have split up, Harriet leads a contented and calm life, understanding the different routines in her two different homes but equally comfortable in both. However, when her Dad sits down to tell her that his special friend Emily and her son Cooper will be moving into his house Harriet sees her orderly life being turned upside-down. Suddenly the words that describe her become negative: “worried, uncertain, apprehensive and anxious.” The accompanying illustration on this page starkly emphasises the sudden change in Harriet’s outlook; the change from a palette of warm colours to an entire page which looks as if it has been scribbled all over with a black pencil, with Harriet huddled in a defensive and miserable pose in one corner leaves the reader in no doubt about the impact this news has on the young protagonist.

Angela Perrini’s ability to portray Harriet’s emotions through her artwork is breath-taking. The other image in the book which will stick in my mind is one of Harriet, again huddled in the lower left of the frame, as she sits inside her Dad’s house, towered over by her step-mum’s possessions.

In gentle, clear language the story proceeds to acknowledge that these feelings are perfectly natural in this situation and offers reassurance that Harriet’s parents still love her as much as ever and that she can take her time to adjust to being part of a step-family. This is a great resource for step-families with young children and even has a selection of clear and practical tips for parents at the end of the book. I highly recommend this book as a useful addition to school and nursery well-being collections for children of 4-7 years old.

I am grateful to Little Steps Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: The Rainbow Connection written by Vanessa Parsons, illustrated by Angela Perrini

Cover illustration by Angela Perrini, published by Little Steps Publishing

This beautiful picture book looks at the creativity displayed by so many people throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021 as we were forced to find novel ways to connect with each other.

Focussing on an ordinary family in an ordinary suburban street, the story is told through the eyes of the middle child in a family as “ life as we knew it suddenly stopped.” Each page contains minimal text through which Vanessa Parsons gently unrolls the story of lockdown, which will be utterly familiar to young readers. From the initial weeks of acclimatising to no school and family movies in the evening, to boredom, the home-schooling/parental home-working balancing act and the evening walks, each stage brings back the memories of the first period of lockdown. Overarching these recollections is the theme of the rainbow and the way that its colourful symbol was used to create a feeling of positivity around the world.

The glorious illustrations by Angela Perrini complement the tone of the text perfectly as they are rendered in a slightly muted rainbow palette, perfectly in keeping with the reflective nature of the story. The looks of delight on the children’s faces when they discover the rainbow trail that the neighbours have drawn on the footpath are infectious and young James grinning and waving in the background of his Dad’s video conference made me snort with laughter!

I think that this will be a lovely book for parents and school staff to share with preschool and early years children, to help them reflect and make sense of the strange start that they have had to their lives and education. The final message of making the most of all the small pleasures in life is an important one for us all. If you need any further incentives to purchase a copy: 10% of author royalties are being donated to NHS Charities together AND there is a recipe for rainbow cake at the end of the story!

I am very grateful to Little Steps Publishing for sending me a copy of The Rainbow Connection in exchange for my honest review.

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

 

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.

Amazing African Storybooks

The Small Five written by Ralph Johnstone, illustrated by Harriet Stanes

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Most of us have heard of the Big Five, those five magnificent animals that safari holidaymakers most wish to see; but have you ever heard of the Small Five? No? Neither had I, until I read this hilarious book by Ralph Johnstone, gloriously and riotously illustrated by Harriet Stanes.

Told in humorous rhyming text, the story introduces the big five of lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo; I loved the adorable puns, such as lion being the “mane man”! The Battle of the Bush begins when their tiny namesakes – antlion the doodlebug, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver bird, leopard tortoise and elephant shrew challenge them to a test of survival skills.

This is an entertaining introduction to some amazing African wildlife which I feel sure will be enjoyed again and again by young readers and any adults who have the pleasure of reading it aloud. It also contains the excellent message that being big and tough isn’t everything, no-one should be overlooked just because they are small. I highly recommend it, and don’t forget to look out for the little Colotis butterfly on every page.

My thanks to Little Steps Publishing for my gifted copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

 

Africa Day written by Chi Mary Kalu and illustrated by Jelena Jordanovic-Lewis

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This is a vibrant and wonderful celebration of the joy of African culture as a little boy accompanies his mother on a trip to the Africa Day Festival. From the glossy illustrations on the front cover of you feel the joy of Emeka as he embarks on his exciting day out. The illustrator Jelena Jordanovic-Lewis has captured the exuberance of the festival on every page with her kinetic artwork in earthy tones.

Readers are introduced to the new vocabulary of Emeka’s culture: Ankara and dashiki shirts, kente shorts, the language Igbo, jollof rice and moi moi and share his exhilaration as he dances through the day.

A marvellous picture book, pulsating with energy,  which I highly recommend for any child of three years and older to explore.

Thank you to Little Steps Publishing for my review copy of this glorious book.

Hey Warrior and Hey Awesome by Karen Young

In an age where anxiety seems to be affecting young people at an alarming rate these two books are a welcome addition to any school library, or collection of books for pastoral care purposes. The author, Karen Young began her career as a psychologist and has clearly put that training to great effect in producing these titles to explain anxiety and empower a young audience.

In a gentle and accessible manner these books help children to identify stress and understand that anxiety is something which can happen to anyone, whether they are an astronaut, a lion-tamer or a child! I love the fact that the author respects her readers to the degree that she explains the workings of the amygdala, presenting it as the “warrior” part of the brain which is designed to protect us from any threats. She uses brilliantly child-friendly comparisons, for example, explaining that sometimes the amygdala can set off false alarms, like a smoke detector going off when the toast is just a little overdone! Clearly detailed descriptions of the physiological changes caused by the released stress hormones are discussed, again with language and imagery that children can understand.

The second half of the books present simple strategies for dealing with attacks of anxiety, taking back control of the brain and rebuilding self-esteem. In essence Hey Warrior helps guide children to embrace their inner warrior, while Hey Awesome encourages the belief that the active imagination which causes anxiety can be harnessed to develop the individual’s creativity.

 

The beautiful watercolour illustrations, in muted tones, by Norvile Dovidonyte not only reinforce the text, but embody the soothing, calming sentiments of the books. I think these titles will be a great asset to those adults working in a pastoral role with primary school children and are likely to be most useful when adult and child read and discuss them together.

Karen Young’s website www.heysigmund.com is packed with resources and advice on the subject of anxiety.

I am most grateful to Little Steps Publishing for sending me copies of Hey Awesome and Hey Warrior in exchange for an honest review.

STEM Picture Books with Websites

Recently I have received a number of stunning picture books which are accompanied by interactive websites, I will review two of them in this post.

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Firstly, Engibear’s Dream by Andrew King, illustrated by Benjamin Johnston.

A fabulous rhyming story designed to get primary school aged children interested in STEM. Engibear needs to make time to pursue his work and his dreams, and is determined to build a robot to take on some of his workload. However, construction does not go entirely to his beautifully-drawn plans and he finds that he has to learn from mistakes and iterate many times to build his robot.

The astonishing technical detail in the illustrations by Benjamin Johnston will have young engineers poring over the blueprints, and the logical presentation of the improvements presents a great model for progression from initial idea to finished product, in any field. 

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The rewards of persistence are clear at the end of the book, which is a great example to children to persevere with their dreams. The writer and illustrator have engineered a wonderful book with a perfect mix of colourful and technical drawings, humour, a lovable protagonist and a tool-box-full of educational content to excite children about the marvels of STEM.

There is an accompanying website, with construction simulations and other games here: www.engibears.com

 

My second book for this post is Goodnight Starry written by D’Arcy Lewis and illustrated by Andrew McIntosh. 

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A glossy, paperback, bedtime story which introduces young readers to the wonder of the planets and stars. The text has rhyme and rhythm and the same soothing quality for bedtime as such classics as Goodnight Moon. In this lovely, gentle storybook, published in the year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, the reader wishes each of the planets in our solar system goodnight. The illustrations by Andrew McIntosh are in a blue and yellow palette, with imaginative and charming representations of the planets accompanied by an interesting fact about each one. An excellent introduction to our closest celestial neighbours for very young children. IMG_2877

The team who created this book have put together a website which you can find here www.goodnightstarry.com The resources and links here have enough fascinating and educational content to be used throughout primary school as an excellent teaching resource.

I am most grateful to the team at Little Steps Publishing for sending me review copies of these delightful, educational books.