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More books for Under 8's

There are always more reviews than can be squeezed into the print edition but all the hard work by our reviewers is not wasted. So here are some extras for the Under 8's

Bell, Davina and Colpoys, Allison.The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade. Scribble, 2016, pp32, £6.99. 978 1 925228 47 2

Alfie is due to take part in the underwater fancy dress parade, but the night before gets that sinking feeling…trouble is, Underwaterhe’s had it before and even though he knows he should face things, he’s just not up to it yet. He is in luck, however, as he has understanding parents who allow him to be himself and still love him in return. And what do they do to help? You have to read the book to find out, but suffice to say that they come up with an idea that will help him to grow. The pictures capture Alfie’s feelings well, and the story will make a good bedtime story whose message can easily and profitably be shared.

Rudolf Loewenstein

Blackburn, Katie and Smythe, Richard. Dozy Bear and the Secret of Sleep. Faber, 2016, pp32, £6.99. 978 0571 330195              

Reading children a calming, soothing story at bedtime, which actively encourages sleep, would seem an eminently sensible idea. This book uses known relaxation techniques, such repetitive, rhythmic language, to help young children unwind and fall into sleep. I can almost feel my eyelids going already. From personal experience, this book is a success.

Robin Barlow

Bowen,James, Jenkins,Garry and Kelley,Gerald. Bob to the Rescue. Red Fox, 2015, pp32, £6.99978-1782954859               

From the authors of A Street Cat Named Bob comes a new story, Bob the cat is back and this time he is coming to the rescue. Bob is a street cat who goes everywhere with James and so when he finds a lost puppy in the park he wants to do all he can to help.  Bob after all knows what it is like to be homeless, tired and hungry too.With its watercolour illustrations adding to the warmth of this story children and adults alike will be warmed by such a heartfelt story and if you read the first book then you will certainly enjoy this second one.

Louise Ellis-Barrett

Clay, Kathryn. Flowers(Celebrate Spring)Raintree, 2016. Pp24, £11.99. 978 1 4747 1237 8

FlowersThis book for children just beginning to read independently celebrates the colourful flowers that bloom in Spring including hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, roses and daisies.  Each double spread shows a photograph of a flower together with a simple written text in large print.   There are helpful ‘find out more’ suggestions listing books and websites.

Margaret Mallett.


Comeau, Joey and Lozano, Omar. Ninja-rella (Far Out Fairytales)Raintree, 2016, pp40, £4.99. 978 1 4747 1025 1 

One of a series called Far Out Fairy Tales, Ninja-rella is an alternative version of the very popular tale, Cinderella. It has all the traditional characters even though they appear in very different guises in martial arts Manga style. Despite the different presentation, all the important elements of the original tale are there. Familiarity with a story is useful ‘scaffolding’ to support young readers. The occasional departures into modern jargon (e.g. fairy god ninja) are entirely appropriate and make the reader’s experience even more enjoyable. The written text is well within the range of a less experienced reader of nine or older and the ninja theme makes it acceptable for older pupils to be seen reading a fairy tale.

Whilst the Manga images might not be attractive to all (especially the ‘really old’ like many teachers and librarians), they are exactly right for 6–9 year olds – especially those who lack stamina when faced with a page of print.

As folk tales have such an important role in our literary heritage, a particularly useful addition at the end of the book is a section on the history of the Cinderella story. There are also some other helpful pages: a guide to the twists in the alternative version; a quiz that requires visual literacy; and, a glossary.Ninja-rella is great fun and is likely to become a popular favourite in lower junior classrooms and beyond.

Prue Goodwin

Craig,Helen. Bedtime Fairy Tales. Orchard, 2015, pp96, £12.99. 9781408338407 

Helen Craig’s new book of ten bedtime fairy tales is both satisfying and essentially unchallenging. The fairy tales are ten of the best-known in this part of the world and, though it would be great to see tales from other cultures being included in such collections, there’s definitely something comforting about sticking with those with which we grown-ups are (hopefully) all familiar. Little Red Riding Hood, The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs – these stories all have great charm. Their rhythms are well-established. We know how to read or tell them. And Helen Craig does an excellent job in this respect. Children may ask questions (hopefully, they will) but the feeling is always of a good story well told. As for the illustrations, these are traditional in style and generally small with two or three per page. It’s the detail that draws you in and there’s always something fascinating. Sometimes, you turn a page to a surprise.  As he leans nonchalantly against a tree in The Gingerbread Man, Mr Fox is big and bright.  Again in Chicken Licken, he looks most inviting as he waves all the other characters towards his den instead of to the king’s palace. But in Little Red Riding Hood, he has to be carefully looked for. In each of four aerial views of a very big forest, he and the little girl are present at different points on the path to grandma’s house. What the book’s cover points out is that Helen Craig made this intriguing picture over 30 years ago to entertain her young son. Evidently, it became ‘the seed from which this book eventually grew’.

Mary Medlicott

Denton, Ella and Littler, Jamie. Intergalactic Ed and the Space Pirates. Oxford, 2016, pp32, £6.99. 978 0 19 273940 7

While his cat Sputnik dozes, young Ed is ready for bed and watching the moon through his telescope when he spots something Intergalacticseriously wrong. Within minutes he dons a space suit, helmet and boots from his intergalactic operations cupboard and they both zoom off into space in Ed’s space transporter. They soon discover that the biggest pirate spaceship in the galaxy is trying to steal the moon. None of Ed’s arguments can dissuade the pirates and he is forced to walk the plank. But canny Sputnik soon creates a diversion which could save Ed and the moon.

This is a very entertaining picture book by debut author Ella Denton. Lots of laughs intertwined with some interesting scientific facts make this a very pacy read. Bright bold cartoon-style illustrations fill each page and expand the text. Space fans will particularly enjoy poring over the detailed imaginative pictures. The illustrator’s depictions of light and shadow could be very thought-provoking for older readers.  A twist on the very last page will make children and adults laugh out loud. This is a great story for both school and home which will trigger lots of interesting conversations.

Rosemary Woodman    

Dicmas,Courtney. Home Tweet Home. Templar, 2015, pp32, £6.99. 978 1783703 142

High on a cliff a family of ten young swallows share a crowded, noisy nest.  Pippi and Burt, the eldest of the brothers and sisters, decide to fly off to explore the big wide world and to find a bigger nest.  Each attempt to find the perfect spot for a new nest leads to an encounter with a big, scary, uncomfortable or hungry creature with the result that Pippi and Burt finally realise that their cramped, noisy old nest is "home tweet home" after all.

This lively, colourful and humorous picture book has plenty to keep young children entertained.  The light pastel background colours act as an effective contrast to the black line outlines of the birds with their expressive shapes and faces and patterned bodies.  The endpapers give clues about some of the creatures the two birds land on and children will enjoy guessing each mystery animal before turning to the dramatic full page reveal.  The page space is well used, the birds' shapes, faces and movements are full of life and the different way in which the illustrator manages to wedge ten birds into one nest are very funny.

The final page amusingly reveals that Pippi and Burt have not given up on ingenious ideas for home improvement, a fitting ending for a vibrant, bright and funny picture book with a comforting message.

Sue Roe               

Doyle, Sheri. Horses (Farm Animals)Raintree, 2016, pp24, £11.99. 978 1 4747 1905 6       

A beautiful production from Raintree, but unfortunately I have several issues with this book.

If we are talking about horses and their markings, let’s have a photograph that clearly illustrates them – and anAppaloosa, if you are going to mention horses with spots!  Similarly, if you are going to try and get across the impression of size, give the reader a photograph of a horse next to the ‘minivan’ mentioned in the text. I’m not clear what a ‘minivan’ is and I doubt that the readers have a clear picture in their heads either.

 The chapter ‘Horses in action’ needs rewriting. The text is confusing:  there is no clear description of the various categories of ‘action’ and no clear progression from that to any examples.  Technical names and terminology are dropped into the text with no logical context to assist comprehension.

I think most young readers of this book will simply want to look at and stroke the beautiful animals in the photographs. Nonetheless, particularly for the very young, I feel it is extremely important to get it right. Any text should be accurate, clear, and use logical progression to introduce new concepts and language.

Rachel Ayers Nelson

Drescher, Daniela. Little Fairy Makes A Wish. Floris Books, 2016, pp32, £9.99. 978 178250 243 2

Little FairyLittle Fairy Makes a Wish, the latest in a series of picture books by German artist Daniela Drescher to appear in English, is a whimsical tale of a mole who desperately wants to fly. Mole’s friend, a little fairy named Faith, joins forces with a fallen star to heave him up into the air for a brief flight over a meadow, before returning a sleepy and satisfied mole to his underground lair. Drescher’s arresting paintings combine an intensity of colour with the fragility of fairy figures, flowers and plants that will certainly attract young viewers, although the narrative is too slight to warrant multiple readings.

Gillian Lathey

Dutta,Tutu and Peluso,Martina. Phoenix song, Lantana, 2015, pp32, £6.99. 978-0993225345        

Set in Malaysia Arohan is a talented musician but he longs for a guitar not the flute.  He is disappointed when he gets an old bamboo flute for his birthday and his mother tries to comfort him with the story of the Xiao, a flute that in the right hands could call the phoenix and bring the world to life in spring.

Arohan’s brothers decide to go off and play in the bamboo forest, ignoring the old stories of the guardian spirit that would punish those that show no respect.  Arohan finds them caught up and turned to trees by the spirit.  He makes a xiao from broken bamboo and with his playing frees his brothers.

The illustrations are in some places beautiful, the colours of the phoenix as it flies over the forest are truly amazing.  In other illustration the lushness of the forest comes across and the depiction of the bamboo closing in over Arohan is truly threatening.

This story tells us on an engaging and modern way both the story of Arohan but also of the xiao and the phoenix or cendrawasih.  This is an excellent introduction to traditional Malaysian stories in a modern setting.

Caroline Downie

Freedman, Claire and Smythe, Richard. Beep Beep Beep Time for Sleep. Simon & Schuster, 2016, pp32, £6.99. 978 1 4711 2114 2  

This picture book is made for the child (usually a boy, sorry) who is fascinated by vehicles. The rhyming text and bright illustrations combine to convey all the noise and action of busy motorway road works. Diggers, backhoe loaders, dump trucks etc. are all shown working at their allotted tasks, culminating in a central panoramic four-page spread. Then, at the end of the day, they are cleaned off and bedded down for the night. However, the anthropomorphism is confined to the text: “Grader yawns and off he lumbers, soon to snore in sleepy slumbers.” The machines (all apparently male) are well observed, although stylised. There is plenty of detail to look at and discuss on every page, and the onomatopoeic rhymes are fun to read aloud as well as helping to build a specialised vocabulary. There are some female characters among the workers for girls to identify with.

Kathryn Tyson

Gaiman Neil and Rex Adam. Chu’s Day at the Beach. Bloomsbury, 2015, pp30,978 1 4088 6435 1

This is the third in a series of books featuring Chu, the little panda with the powerful sneeze, and this time he is spending the day on the beach. He is having a lovely time, paddling about in the sea, eating his ice cream, until he gets an irresistible urge to sneeze and unfortunately splits the sea in half, causing sadness and distress to the creatures in it, understandably. The race is then on to make Chu sneeze again and put everything back as it was, but what will it take to make Chu sneeze?

This is a lovely book to share with a young child. The story is simply told in short, clear sentences but the colourful illustrations of the strange mix of creatures also on the beach offer so much material for conversation.  There are penguins, pigs, sun-bathing chimpanzees, book-reading crabs and an octopus selling ice creams, all of which could spark off questions and discussions.

June Hughes

Gibb,Sarah. Sleeping Beauty. HarperCollins, 2015, pp32, £12.99. 978 0 00 752629 1          

This book is part of the Best-Loved Classics series and has been enveloped in the full romanticSleeping Beauty treatment. The oldest and most powerful fairy, Malevola, casts a wicked spell on the beautiful young Princess Rosebud. A tiny fairy cannot undo this spell but manages to modify it into a hundred year sleep. The beautiful princess is finally awoken after her long sleep by the handsome young Prince Florizel.  Detail abounds both in the rich story language, the sumptuous flower-framed illustrations and elaborate silhouettes.  The whole essence of the large format book cries romantic elegant excess. It is easy to imagine a young reader with the book open on her knees, literally being submerged into the tale.  A classic tale, splendidly presented.

Carolyn Boyd

Goodhart, Pippa and Usher, Sam. What will Danny Do Today?Egmont, 2016, pp32, £6.99. 978 1 4052 7510 1

What will Danny do today? You decide! And you really do get to decide in this brilliantly thought out book. Follow Danny as he goes about his day and discover the choices he has for what he gets to eat, what lessons he will have, what he will wear – on each double page there is a host of illustrations for readers to pick through and choose. An excellent tool for discussion, this book will appeal to any child who likes making decisions! The vast collection of ideas for what Danny could do is impressive, and you will find something different in the illustrations every time you open the book. A fun, interactive and interesting book which I would definitely recommend for pre school age.

Hannah Breslin

Hardyman, Robyn. Camping (Adventures in the Great Outdoors)Raintree, 2016, pp32, £12.99   978 1 47471547 8

Camping and exploring the outdoors can be most enjoyable – this is the message in this well organised and inviting book which is organised into sections with clear headings. However you need to plan the trip carefully and learn to perform necessary tasks. The early pages make it clear that some research is required, perhaps on the Internet , so that you can make informed  decisions about location – do you, for example,  want to be at a campsite or out in the countryside . There is also good advice about choosing appropriate gear: you need to find the right tent,   a good sleeping bag, robust footwear and layers of warm clothing.  The book goes on to describe the skills you need to acquire for tasks like fishing, making a camp fire and tracking birds and animals.                                                                                                                                                                      The colourful photographs show children exploring, hiking, cooking and, when night time arrives, star gazing and storytelling. There is a glossary and index and so the book reinforces some of the features of non-fiction texts. Above all it shows that camping is a terrific way to spend time with friends and family.

Margaret Mallett

Hargreaves, Roger and Hargreaves Adam. Mr Men Adventure with Dinosaurs.Egmont, 2016, pp32, £4.99. 978 1 4052 8303 8               

The second instalment ofa new series of Mr Men & Little Miss books that explore a range of topics at a very basic level such as Egypt or asin this case:Dinosaurs. Guided by no other than the great Mr Clever (of course), our friends go on a series of adventures where they learn things like how tall dinosaurs were (taller than Mr Tall), or strong (stronger than Mr Strong) or whether they were ticklish at all (thank goodness, they were!). A double winner for fans of dinosaurs and Mr Men books alike.

Susana Sanchez-Gonzalez

Howarth,Daniel and Howarth,Heidi. Little Hedgehog's Big Day (Storytime)QED, 2015, pp24, £10.99. 978 1784932 442    

Little Hedgehog is about to start big school, but he's worried that he's not big enough. Thankfully, he can rely on his friends Rabbit, Squirrel, Badger and Ant to help him in their own way! And after all, he might know more that he thought he did….

This story, both written and beautifully illustrated by Daniel and Heidi Howarth, will help children who feel worried about going to school for the first time. Discussion points (feelings about children's first day at school, family photographs, etc.) for parents and teachers are also included.

Océane Toffoli

Jones,Ceri Wyn and Reynolds,Adrian. Ruck in the Muck. Pont, 2015, pp32, £5.99. 978-1785620676

RuckIn the shadow of the Millennium Stadium, we join two brothers who have a love of rugby as they play and 'ruck' in a muddy field. In their imaginations, they are playing in the stadium itself, the crowd is roaring, their team is winning. The descriptions of their surroundings, thoughts and feelings are detailed, putting the reader right there in their muddy field. This is a rhyming story, and although the rhymes scan awkwardly at times, stick with it because the message of playing in union at the end of the story is heart-warming. A great book for sports lovers – and you don't have to support Welsh rugby to enjoy it!

Hannah Breslin

Kazemi, Nahid (translated by Azita Rassi)The Orange House. Tiny Owl, 2016, pp24, £12.99. 978 1 910328 11 8             

There is much to be discussed and enjoyed in this handsome picturebook about change and becoming reconciled to it.  Another theme promotes being open to others, and offering and accepting friendship.  The orange house is the only original house left in what is now an alley of newly built houses.  She feels threatened by all the differences between herself and them.  In turn, the new houses are mystified as to why the orange house never speaks to them. Then the demolition gang arrives. The new houses remember the garden of the orange house with its trees and noisy birds, and how it brings breathing space to everybody. They decide to save the orange house by blocking her from the gang’s sight.  Old and new, the buildings will be friends and provide a pleasing environment for all to enjoy.  The art style, in full colour collage and pencil is beautiful indeed, apparently simple but actually highly skilful and imaginative.  Kazemi’s images of trees bend to the winds of change from the title page onwards.  Collage scraps of fabric portray personified houses which are thoroughly un-stereotypical and visually intriguing, being shown in plan and elevation simultaneously. 

Jane Doonan

Lewis,Rob. Mo Can't Go. Pont, 2015, pp32, £5.99. 978 1848519633           

Rob Lewis is an established author and illustrator based in Wales with a distinctive illustrating style. Mo Can’t Go is the story of Mo whose car stops working when she’s out going for a drive one morning. The story has a traditional feel, where the animals come one by one to help and offer Mo advice. They kick, search, rattle and push the car in an attempt to start it. Written in rhyming couplets and repetitive text, this is a humorous story accompanied by equally humorous and expressive illustrations. For the most part the story is illustrated with a series of vignettes interspersed with full page spreads. The only double page spread includes a detailed pencil landscape view of Cardiff which is amazing. An ideal picture book for reading aloud, story time and transport and helping one another projects.

Sioned Jacques

Lloyd-Jones, Sally and Jeram, Anita. Skip to the Loo My Darling. Walker, 2016, pp32,£11.99. 978 1 4063 2465 5             

The unmistakable palette of Anita Jeram is perfect for this charming rendition of a (slightly differently spelled) favourite song. The clues are all over the cover - toilet paper, potties and, just to make sure you know what you're getting into, a red balloon bearing the words "A Potty Book".

We meet Bunny and friends mid-picnic, but it isn't long before Bunny is looking decidedly uncomfortable. Only one thing for it - skip to the loo! But Bunny isn't the only one. All his friends follow as well as monsters, dragons and (suspiciously sheeted) ghosts! Lots to find in the gently riotous procession as it hops and skips to the waiting potties. Ah! The relief is palpable as everyone settles onto their very own. But what's this? Is someone missing?! A small mirror invites readers to see themselves as part of the potty party.

A lovely introduction to potties, or perhaps encouragement to give it another chance.

Helen Thomson

Mackenzie, Emily. Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat. Bloomsbury, 2016, pp32, £6.99. 978 1 4088 6048 9  Stanley

This book tells the story of Stanley, the cat who loves to knit. He knits everywhere and everything. With some lovely alliterations - balaclavas for the bunnies, jolly jumpers, silly socks and woolly onesies – Stanley especially loves to knit fantastic creations for his friends. One day he spots a knitting competition which calls for wacky woolly creations, so gets to work on a mysterious project, running out of wool and having to unravel his friends’ outfits in the process. There is a particularly lovely illustration of his friends, shy of their clothes and hiding behind a variety of objects. His choice of knitting competition over his friends’ comfort is the major dilemma and one that is solved in a satisfying and delightful way.

Throughout the book, the opportunity for audience participation in the storytelling is enhanced by changes in font size, to encourage a storytelling voice and lots of joining in. His knitting takes on its own voice too, with some lovely rhythmic pairings of knitting-related words. The illustrations are bright and busy. With lots to look at and to join in with, children will enjoy getting to know Stanley.

Julia Etheridge

McKay,Elizabeth and Maria Bogade. Wee Granny and the Ceilidh. Picture Kelpies,2015, pp32, £5.99. 978 1782502 098  

Maw Broon meets Mary Poppins in this cheerful story for young readers. It is the day of Emily and Harry’s school ceilidh but everything is going wrong. Thankfully Wee Granny, accompanied by her tartan clad wee dog (a Scottie, of course) saves the day – it’s all in the bag, literally!

Wee Granny appears to be a typical – or should I say “stereotypical” - Scottish granny, grey haired and rosy cheeked, definitely the kind of granny “ye cannae shove aff the bus”, but what she finds in her tartan bag totally redefines the term “bag of tricks” and is the source of much fun for young readers with a taste for the absurd.

Bogade's cartoon-like illustrations in ink and watercolour are reminiscent of the Scottish Comics tradition of the Beano and the Dandy. This adds yet another Scottish dimension to the title and works well with the preposterous situations which are depicted.

Agnès Guyon

McKee,David. Elmer and the Flood. Andersen, 2015, pp32, £11.99. 9781 78344 204 1

David McKee brings us another adventure about everyone’s favourite patchwork elephant Elmer. In this story Elmer becomes a hero. Having had enough of sheltering from the rain, Elmer decides to leave his herd and seek some fresh air and peace and goes for a walk. However, when he ventures out he discovers that the rain has caused a flood and left a young elephant stranded on higher ground. Will Elmer be able to save the elephant? Will Elmer ever find a bit of peace?

David Mckee maintains his high standard and distinctive illustration in this latest adventure. The story starts with the end-papers, which depict the “torrential rain” the elephants have been sheltering from. Throughout there is a distinctive sense of movement, rising water levels and happiness. Ideal for school weather projects and as an introduction to recent extremes in Britain’s weather system.

Sioned Jacques

Muller, Gerda. A Year in Our New Garden. Floris Books, 2016, pp36, £10.99. 978 178250 259 3    

The combination of text and illustrations make this the kind of book you can just keep coming back to.  The illustrations are reminiscent of children’s books from the 70’s and 80’s, which makes sense as it was first published in 1988.  For some the pictures may appear dated but I think the illustrations are full of such detail that you can return to them again and again.  The page with the baby birds in the tree is one of my favourites as well as the final winter scene which I would use as a teaching resource separate from the book. The book takes the reader on the life of a garden throughout the year in which the children plant, grow and enjoy their new garden.  There are some lovely examples to show children of how you can plan a plot to grow plants along with additional fact boxes and instructions to make things just like they have in the story.  This is a lovely book to share with a class when doing a topic on seasons and growing plants.

 Kate Keaveny

Oliver, Carmen and Claude, Jean. Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies. Curious Fox, 2016, pp32, £4.99. 978 1 78202427 9               

BearsThis school year, Adelaide doesn’t need Mrs. Fitz-Pea to assign her a reading buddy for she has brought her very own one: a real bear! Not convinced? Wait till you hear how bears make the best reading buddies...

Author Carmen Oliver’s reading buddy may have been a yellow duck ride-on toy as she once wrote, Adelaide’s bear is really impressive and the story is an ode to reading. Illustrator Jean Claude has made a great job too: cute illustrations and sweet characters make a marvellous duo.

Océane Toffoli

Parker, Steve. Space (A Journey Through)Illustrated by John Haslam. QED, 2016, pp48, £9.99. 978 1 78493 298 5             

Young readers are invited to board a rocket and blast off to explore the solar system and beyond. Learning a little about the history of space travel, they then zoom past the Moon and journey to the other planets, encountering asteroids, comets and constellations on the way. Explanations of galaxies, black holes and orbits are given in simple terms, accompanied by bright, cheerful illustrations, combining cartoon style figures with accurate representations of the planets.

This is a good introduction to the mysteries and wonders of space for would be astronomers or astronauts, with a quiz at the end to test their knowledge of what they have read. I would have preferred to see an index as well as a contents page and some suggestions for further reading would have been useful, for children who wanted to find out more. Having said that, the author and illustrator have wide experience of producing accessible information for children of all ages and this appealing book has its place on classroom or library shelves. It could certainly be a springboard for piquing interest and encouraging further research. The dust jacket folds out into a poster of the solar system.

Jane Gould

Percival,Tom. Herman's Holiday. Bloomsbury, 2015, pp32, £6.99. 978 1408852 088

Best friends, Herman, a bear and a Henry, a raccoon, dream of a luxurious summer holiday together but with few funds they can only afford a camping trip. While Herman embraces the great outdoors, Henry thinks it stinks and his lack of camping skills, like a terribly-built and collapsing-in-the-middle-of-the-night tent, only compound his feelings. Upset by his friend’s unhappiness, Herman turns to his other friends and through an Amazon-type animal postal service, transforms the campsite into the holiday destination of Henry’s dreams. In an instant Henry’s nightmare vacation becomes the stuff of legend. This simple tale of friendship and thoughtfulness becomes a glittering gem of a book with its genius lift-the-flap postcards and hilarious details like street signs and brochures advertising the most glamorous holiday destinations. It’s gently told but with a strong message that compassion for others, even when you’re having the time of your life is crucial. And to cap it all, in spite of the site improvements and Henry’s newfound luxury quarters, Herman insists on not abandoning his tent. Perfect for very young readers and their parents, this book is right up there with some of the picture book greats.

Jonny Zucker

Pigott, Louise. Squirrel Me Timbers. Curious Fox,2016, pp24, £6.99. 9781 78202 425 5     

This fast-paced, breathtaking story -written in verse- relates the colourful adventure of Sammy, a vigorous, cheerful character. Sammy the squirrel is pirate (at least that's what he says) who can't believe his luck when one day he finds a treasure map! Will you set sail with him and discover how exciting a pirate’s life can be? Will you spot the X mark and strike gold (i.e. nuts, which is even better, right?!) with Sammy the squirrel?  Squirrel me Timbers is Louise Pigott’s first solo picture book and this nutty book will crack you up!

Océane Toffoli

Rickards, Lynne and Mitchell, Jon. Skye the Puffling. Picture Kelpies, 2016, pp32, £5.99. 978 178250 255 5            

In this sweet story, we meet another member of Harris’ (of Harris the Hero) family. This time Harris is father to a charming little ball of fluff, Skye, who seems to be a bit too lively for her own good. One day, she falls off a cliff and, unable to fly, is lucky to land on a gannet’s back. A perilous ride ensues through the beautiful Scottish seascape to the Bass Rock. Meanwhile, her anxious parents fly to her rescue and, after talking to various sea animals, also end up on the Bass Rock. The rhyming text works well and carries the story along at the right pace. It would be particularly suitable for reading aloud.

I am particularly fond of the area of Scotland surrounding the Bass Rock and thought that Jon Mitchell’s watercolour illustrations really did it justice, but it is in his portrayal of Scottish sea life that these delightful illustrations really stand out. I particularly liked the attention to detail given to gannets, and Skye is just adorable!

Agnès Guyon

Robinson, Michelle and Ashdown, Rebecca. Odd Socks. Andersen Press, 2016, pp32, £11.99. 978 1 78344 337 6      Odd Socks       

This beautifully illustrated and presented book is a delight, from the embossed front cover to the punning back cover. Throughout Robinson uses rhyme and a jaunty metre to tell the story of woolly true love and the joy of being odd but together. It is a great read-aloud book as the metre is only rarely clunky (so do read to yourself first), and the illustrations have strong appeal and bright colours.

 The characterisation of the socks, especially Sosh, is very charming and humour is used well. I particularly like Sosh’s exclamation when he is snatched by the dog; “He watched his whole life flash by – WHOOSH- just like that. Why couldn’t the family have chosen a cat?” This is a book that will be reread often and could become a class favourite

Ingrid Spencer

Sharratt,Nick. Shark in the Park on a Windy Day. Picture Corgi, 2015, pp24, £6.99. 978-0552573108

As the third book in the Shark in the Park series, Sharratt’s story once again follows the character of Timothy Pope with his telescope in hand. Timothy and his dad are back at the park but the weather, on this occasion, is a little on the gusty side! This brings with it a special sense of drama and bedlam – the swirling leaves and kites gets everyone’s attention but Timothy’s. He’s determined to play with his telescope and keeps on getting a fright. He’s sure he’s spotting something rather sinister and frightening... This is a fun and energetic book that uses a simple, repeated refrain throughout. The peephole cut-outs add an extra dimension of excitement for the reader and the illustrations are wonderfully bold and striking. What more could you want from a picture book?

Claire Warren

Stephenson, Kristina. The Mummy's Gold (Sir Charlie Stinky Socks)Egmont, 2016, pp32, £7.99. 978 1 4052 6814 1             

This is the eighth adventure in the series following the brave knight, Sir Charlie Stinky Socks. This time we join Charlie, his faithful cat, Envelope, and his good grey mare on his latest quest; a trek across the desert to return a mysterious bag to its rightful owner. There is someone else who wants the bag though;could the contents and owner be linked to the missing gold of Pharaoh Aboo Ra?  Each new quest in this series is linked to the end of the previous book, a smart move by the author as this will undoubtedly lead children back to the last book as well as on to the next one. The author also uses some interesting features, such as large fold-out pages (extra pages without breaking the 32 page rule!), different fonts, font sizes, and frequent use of bold and italics. Combined with the playful language features, such as alliteration, rhyme and ellipses, this title really has fun with the idea of what a book can do and makes reading aloud a delight. However it must be noted that many of the features mentioned will be challenging for children with reading difficulties such as dyslexia

Lucy Rowland

Taghdis, Susan and Mafakheri,Ali. The Snowman and The Sun. Tiny Owl, 2015, pp24, £7.99. 978-1910328101               

Snowman and SunA snowman wonders what will happen as the sun heats up. And soon it melts – but what happens next (which we know to be part of the water cycle!) is illustrated simply and effectively by Mafakheri. Sharing this story at bedtime would be a lovely way of reminding children that not everything lasts forever, and with loss will eventually come some form of gain. The book would not be out of place in the EYFS classroom either.

Rudolf Loewenstein

Tapper, Lucy and Wilson, Steve. Horace and Hattiepillar (Hedgehugs)Maverick Arts, 2015, pp32, £6.99. 978 1 84886 163 3               

This is the second picture book about Hedgehugs Horace and Hattie by husband and wife team Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper. The hedgehugs are the firmest of friends, who love playing and enjoying nature together. One day they find something tiny and interesting under a leaf. Out of it crawls a wriggly, stripy thing with a huge appetite. The hedgehugs find it lots of leaves and it gets bigger and bigger. Then one day it stops eating and builds itself a soft silky bed. After lots of days and lots of nights out comes a beautiful creature that waves its wings at them and flies away. Horace has an idea. He and Hattie eat and eat, then make themselves a fluffy bed of flowers. When they wake up they too are beautiful. What’s more, they too can fly. (Only the pictures show that their new multi-coloured splendour is the result of flowers sticking to their spines, and that their flight is on swings.)

This is a simply told story introducing the life cycle of the butterfly, from the viewpoint of creatures who love what they see but have no knowledge of what is happening, much as young children do. The illustrations are stylised and unusual.

Anne Harding

Welsh,Clare Helen and Touliatou,Sophia. Aerodynamics of Biscuits. Maverick Arts, 2015, pp32, £6.99. 978-1848861817

With end pages that encourage the reader to think astrophysics – calculations for reaching the moon – you should not be put off but rather keep your eyes open for the little note that reads “and biscuits” for this is the key to the story.

Now that I have drawn you in what can you expect to see?  First you will meet Oliver, a good and kind but hungry little boy who makes a beeline straight for the biscuit barrel … but oh no, what is this; where are the biscuits?  Follow Oliver as he follows the biscuits … into the garden? Yes, that is right they are in the garden having been taken by the pirate mice, but why?  For a very special mission that Oliver soon finds himself involved in.  Now make sure that you continue to pay attention to the illustration, detailed and showing each step of the journey that Oliver is making, this is a delight to read and savour (it may make you quite hungry too)!

This is a clever and fun story told with great passion, humour and an understanding of the young audience at whom it is aimed.  It is brightly illustrated with lots of additional detail covering the pages and children will enjoy spending time looking at all the detail that has been packed in.

Louise Ellis-Barrett


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