Up to age 5 [Reception/Foundation] 2012

Daisy’s Big Dig, Angie Morgan

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847802088 £11.99

A lovely book that can be utilised within the topic based classroom in a number of ways. Suitable for the early years up, it involves basic numbers as the story explains who lives in each house in Magnolia Street, and could support work linked to celebrating the uniqueness of individuals, community spirit, plants and growing; as well as providing opportunities for invitation writing. It is an easy story to read with colourful illustrations semi-reminiscent of those found in Charlie and Lola, but more pleasing to the eye in my mind. The inferred treasure found within Mr Hofmeister’s garden might only be comprehended by children from Year 1 up, but this does not detract from the idea that thinking and sharing your skills and talents to benefit others is a good thing. An enjoyable read and a very useful class story book to support social skills and topic work.
Ailsa Boardman-Hirst, Headmistress, Port Regis Pre-Prep, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2012

Freight Train, written and illustrated by Donald Crews

Phoenix Yard Books ISBN 9781907912108 £5.99

Freight Train is a truly lovely book. Despite being a classic in the US since its original publication in 1978, it has long been out of print here until it came out in hardback for Christmas last year; it is due out in paperback on 1st May. It is the simplicity of this book and its wonderful illustrations that make it such a success, from the colour linked description of each carriage to the sense of movement engendered by the pictures when the train begins its travels. The prose is easy to follow, and it makes a lovely sharing book. I would recommend this one to every nursery class. Recommended age: 3-6
Kristina West, Children's Literature PhD student, University of Reading
Online review 2012

Fussy Freya, Katharine Quarmby, illustrated by Piet Grobler

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9780099495369 £6.99

A book that appeals to both children and fraught parents alike, Fussy Freya is a story about a three-year old girl who, having been an excellent eater, suddenly declares ‘Your dhal and rice are just not nice.’ and proceeds to reject everything her parents offer her. Despairing that she is getting thin and ill, her frazzled mum packs her off to Grandma’s house where she is taught a lesson she is unlikely to forget! Cheekily asking her Grandmother for ‘Giraffe and warthog and monkey and brown bear’ that is exactly what she gets! Much to her disgust. Fussy Freya is a fast-paced, rhyming story for young children. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes its gruesome dishes and annotated illustrations give the reader a feast for their eyes and ears! My children made me read it three times in a row, so it certainly proved popular….I just hope the story rubs off and fussy eating becomes a thing of the past!
Hannah Skottowe, key stage 2 and 3 teacher
Online review 2012

Itchy Itch Itch, Mara Bergman, illustrated by Emily Bolam

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408818473 £5.99

With clear, brightly coloured illustrations and a rhyming text, we follow Buffalo as he asks a variety of animals if they can help him get rid of the annoying itch in his shaggy fur. He just can’t reach it for himself. Elephant tries with her long trunk, but to no avail; monkey tries with his long arms and nimble fingers, but it doesn’t work. Then a tiny bird comes to the rescue, pecking away at the insects in the fur on buffalo’s back, so that the two become good friends who help each other. There are supporting facts at the end about each of the animals in the story. The illustrations are simple and bold enough to engage young children’s attention, but whilst some of the rhymes are engaging, others don’t quite fit the metre, and so are a little more difficult to read in a sustained rhythm, although children will enjoy joining in with repeated phrases such as ‘itchy itch itch’ and ‘scratchy scritch scritch’. Age-range: 4-6
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2012

Kangaroo Hop, Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji

Allen & Unwin   ISBN 9781742379159   £6.99

Kangaroos Hop tells of the different animals that can be seen in Australia and how they move as they make their way down to the riverbank where the big fat crocodile is sleeping. The kangaroos hop, the birds fly, the echidnas shuffle, the butterflies dance and the lizards run, the fish swim, the crabs crawl, the goannas climb and the frogs jump but what will they do when they reach their destination?  A delightful book with bold and colourful aboriginal artwork. Suitable for children aged 2 – 4.

Jo Kilpatrick    Online review, 2013

The King Who Wouldn't Sleep, Debbie Singleton and Holly Swain

Random House ISBN 9781849390064   £10.99

A must for any classroom that is about to focus on princesses and princes, castles or fairy tales.  The story follows the trials of a king trying to find the perfect husband for his daughter; an impossibility of course, but an unlikely suitor comes to the fore after demonstrating what eventually is intellectual mathematical stealth.  When you first read the book you wonder where the story line is going as it is unpredictable and whole heartedly novel.  Within the classroom it could be used to introduce adjective for personal descriptions, alliteration and certainly involves basic number work.  The clear and colourful illustrations allow children to count the various animals that come into the story, which is a delight for any three or four year old. This is a cracking unpredictable story that once read, will be read again and again.

Ailsa Boardman-Hirst, Headmistress, Port Regis Pre-Prep, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury, 2013

Monsters Don't Cry, Brett McKee, illustrated by Ella Burfoot

Andersen Press  ISBN 9781849393133  £5.99

The real strength of this book for me is all about Ella Burfoot’s fabulous illustrations.  The beautifully realised baby monster, with his wonderful facial expressions, and the predicaments he finds himself in offer a vivid and colourful depiction of childhood.  The monster child in Brett McKee’s book really has a terrible time in Monsters Don’t Cry: he is chased by goats, hit on the head with branches and left up a tree to miss his tea, but it takes the unfortunate event of his teddy’s head falling off to really upset him.  It is a nice story – the little monster does cry in the end and his parents are there to comfort him – and one can take the moral that crying should be saved for things that are really important, but I found the repeated refrain that 'monsters are strong, monsters don’t cry' a little off-putting for the target audience.  Worth reading for the illustrations alone.  For children aged three to six.

Kristina West   Online review 2012

My First Trip on an Aeroplane, Vic Parker

Raintree  ISBN 9781406223378  Price £6.99

This title is aimed squarely at the schools market, and is none the worse for that.  Part of the Growing Up series, My First Trip on an Aeroplane offers a very clear and enjoyable collection of facts perfect for young children getting ready for a holiday abroad, or just interested in planes and travelling.  The photos are bright, key words are linked to a picture glossary at the back and it is full of great advice on what children should take with them on the plane so that their parents don’t have to spend  twelve hours playing I-spy!  The Find Out More section offers links to other books and websites for the keen young traveller.  I recommend this for children aged three to six.  I wish all factual books for young children were as clear and informative as this.

Kristina West   Online review 2012

Wanda Wallaby Finds Her Bounce, Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Mark Chambers 

Bloomsbury  ISBN 9781408818398  £5.99

It’s a well-known trope to have a picture book character searching for something that will make them the same as their fellow creatures, and that’s just what we find with Wanda Wallaby.  We know of course from the outset that Wanda will at first fail, and then succeed to find her bounce, and young readers will be reassured by this well-trodden path.

The story of Wanda’s search for her missing bounce is well told.  The animals she meets along the way characteristically ask her what it smells, sounds and feels like, but the twist in the tale comes when crafty crocodile asks Wanda what it tastes like.  Tension builds as Wanda climbs inside the croc’s wide-open jaws to look for the supposed bounce that is allegedly stuck deep down the monster’s throat.  Just in time, Wanda realises she’s been tricked, and hops – yes hops – out and away from danger.  So she does find her bounce in the crocodile’s throat after all!  Simple but effective language with repetitive phrases that children will enjoy joining in with are accompanied by large, clear illustrations that support the story effectively.  A good text for sharing.  For children aged three to six.

Pam Dowson   Online review 2012

What About Bear? Suzanne Bloom

Alanna Books ISBN 9781907825088   £11.99

Some people think that books with a minimal text are easy to write.  Not so.  Taking big, important themes and conveying the feelings involved but doing this in just a handful of words is extremely difficult.  This is where the picture book can come into its own, for the illustrations are able to help in getting the message across.  Suzanne Bloom understands this and has combined words and pictures in this brightly coloured book about friendship so that we are left in no doubt about the depth of feeling experienced by Goose, Bear and Little Fox.  Fox is the intruder into Goose and Bear’s games – he desperately wants to be involved but clearly isn’t sure how to go about it.  The two friends welcome him but he takes over, so that Bear is increasingly left out.  Goose is the saviour however, and finds a way to reconcile the situation.  There is much food for thought – and discussion – in this little story, which could help with many youthful friendships.  For 3 to 7 year olds.

Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus, Britta Teckentrup

Orchard Press   ISBN 9781408314418   £6.99

The Wheels on the Bus is the classic rhyme that gets a re-vamp in this enjoyable peep-through-the-hole picture book. We join a variety of jungle animals as they climb aboard the bus and look through the shape holes to see who is getting on next, until we get to the park and everyone goes to play. The illustrations are bright and simple and there is lots of ‘turn the page’ excitement with the fun addition of peep holes.  The rhyme continues for a few verses with the usual ‘wipers on the bus go swish swishswish’ until we get to a rather lovely section where the mummies and daddies say ‘I love you’ before the story ends making this book perfect for night-time sharing at home. Of course there is always room for a popular classic such as this in any Nursery or Pre-School ready for the eager enjoyment of young children, and it may appeal to adults as there is a guaranteed ‘end’ of the rhyme rather than its tendency to go on and on. Sure to be a successful addition to the story selection for all children aged 3 and up.

 Katherine Shean    Online review, 2013


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