Up to age 5 (Reception/Foundation) 2020

reviews added January 2020

Argh! There’s a skeleton inside you! by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781911631583   £10.99

The startling cover of this book attracts children and the humorous cartoon style is an excellent vehicle for conveying information. Quog and Oort are on their way to a party when their spaceship crashes and they need to open the spaceship door. My favourite line in the book is Oort’s “I can’t open doors. I’m a gas cloud” The dilemma is resolved with the help of the reader’s hands. Quog is so impressed that she decides to grow some hands of her own but the reader has to help her mend the engine by giving a push. This leads Quog and Oort to study the reader’s hand and we learn about nerves. After a high five, the story concludes with the fun of the party celebrations. At the end of the book there is an explanation of how bones, muscles and nerves form hands. Children will like the innovative, interactive fun of this book, which combines silliness and science. The Teachers’ tips on the Allen and Unwin website are excellent. Highly recommended for children aged 4 – 6.

Brenda Marshall

The Mystery Kitten by Holly Webb Illustrated by Sophy Williams  Stripes ISBN 9781788952194 £5.99

Elsa is moving house. It is an exciting but scary time. Elsa will get her own room, which is good, but she might find it odd sleeping without Sara every night. At night she is troubled by strange noises at night. Eventually she finds the cause - a little black kitten living in the attic.  She calls him Pepper. Initially she conceals him from her sister and father. She is keen to adopt her new friend, but the family have to find out who Pepper belongs to and why he has been left. The story deals with situations that will resonate with children – moving home, leaving and making friends, going to primary school alone when your sister has started at secondary school, concealing and revealing secrets. Pepper’s story comes as a surprise and there are good messages about jumping to the wrong conclusions. Charming illustrations enhance the text. Highly recommended for 5 – 8 year olds.

Brenda Marshall


Polly and the New Baby by Rachel Quarry OUP  ISBN: 9780192769046.   £6.99

As someone who remembers her imaginary friends extremely clearly, (I had two), I found this book very easy to relate to. Little Polly’s friend is Bunny and he goes everywhere with her - in her old pushchair. That has been fine until now, but Mum is expecting a new baby and will need it back very soon. Parents and Gran make plenty of suggestions, very gently, as to other modes of transport, but none of them is suitable. Our Polly is far too imaginative to be won over so easily and cleverly remains one step ahead of everyone. Just at the critical moment of being introduced to her new baby sister, Polly makes an announcement - with a twist - which resolves the issue in a far more creative way than any of the adults would have thought of!

The gentle humour of this book is echoed in the charming, subtly coloured illustrations over double page spreads. The well-paced balance between narrative and speech makes this a perfect read aloud book to all those Early Years children awaiting a new sibling. Polly is a cracking little character and very creative, but the book is also all about belonging, family life, problem-solving and who we choose to share our problems with, so there is much to discuss!

Sue Barrett


My Friend Fred by Frances Watts Illustrated by A.Yi   Allen and Unwin ISBN9781911631453 £11.99

In this story we hear all about Fred an excitable, mischievous and very appealing sausage dog. Each delightfully illustrated double page introduces another aspect of Fred’s behaviour which is clearly considered very strange by the unseen narrator. Why for example does Fred howl at the moon or turn around three times before going to sleep?  It is only at the end of the book that the identity of the narrator and Fred’s best friend is fully revealed as a cat, although sharp eyed readers will notice the clues in the first few pages – a tail here, a flurry of paws there. Don’t forget to look at the end papers too, with lively sausage dogs at the front and laid-back cats at the back.

This would be a great text to share with Early Years classes who will quickly be able to join in with the repeated phrase ‘My friend FRED.’  They would enjoy going back through the book to spot where the cat is included in the illustrations. The story may lead to discussions about children’s own pets and comparisons to Fred and his behaviour, or that sometimes unlikely friendships can occur, even between traditional foes.

Sue McGonigle

Share this page: