Up to age 5 (Reception/Foundation) 2020

reviews added September 2020

Where the Sea Meets the Sky by Peter Bently Illustrated by Rico Sekiguchi Holder Children’s Books ISBN 97814449463-7 £12.99

Like all youngsters, Sophie the sea-otter is curious and from her vantage point floating on top of her mum, she becomes transfixed by the point at which the sea meets the sky: the horizon. Ignoring her mother’s advice that no-one should try to reach it, she slips away while her mother goes fishing and embarks upon her own marine adventure. Along the way she encounters a walrus and a whale, before dipping beneath the waves to cavort with fish of all kinds, along with lobster and starfish. Sharks interrupt her game and when she surfaces for air, that pesky horizon is still far away. As night falls, Sophie faces a much more dangerous monster and is now far too tired to swim to safety. Luckily, her paw is grabbed, just in time.

This is a delightful tale with much to discuss: the wisdom of mothers, the need to manage risk, the curvature of the earth and the wonder of our oceans. All these emerge from an enjoyable rhythmic rhyming text, the use of large fonts to echo the meaning and attractive double-page colourful illustrations which help immerse the reader in the underwater world. (Little Sophie with her big eyes is adorable.)This is the perfect Early Years’ text to encourage children to talk about when they have been brave and to come up with their own questions which they would like to explore and how they might find the answer - safely!

Sue Barrett


Oi Aardvark by Kes Gray. Illustrated by Jim Field Hachette Children’s Books ISBN 978444955910 £12.99

More or less exactly what you’d expect from another in the successful and popular series of Oi Frog and Oi Dog books. This is another comically and colourfully illustrated book of quirky animals and the rhyming places that bossy frog says they can sit. This time, however, frog is attempting to do the whole alphabet from A-Z much to Cat’s and Dog’s disbelief. Cat utters the sarcastic line of “Good luck with that!” which is exactly what, as a grown up reader, I was thinking. In order to fit the whole alphabet and an introductory explanatory introduction and a funny ending into the usual 32 page double spread there is a centre fold surprise with QRSTUV successfully squeezed in. There is certainly lots to interest both the young and the aging mind as you are introduced to some of the more unusual creatures of the world. Quetzels, Quolls and X ray tetra were all new to me!! And if you really ant to find out which animals sit on frilly pink knickers you’ll have to invest to find out. No spoilers from me.

Jane Macleod


My School Unicorn by Willow Evans Illustrated by Tom Knight Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9781444956429 £6.99

The book opens with Evie enjoying the best part of the day – story time with Dad. Evie is worrying about moving from nursery to big school. Evie and Dad visit Madame Lexi’s Uniform Emporium. When she puts on her uniform she finds a teeny-tiny unicorn called Bobby in the pocket of her jumper. Bobby helps her to feel brave and gives her confidence. After a whole week “Evie’s wobbly feeling had completely disappeared” and she is enjoying her new school. Evie is so secure that she returns Bobby to Madame Lexi so he can help someone else. The book ends with instructions on how make your own school unicorn. A charming story that will help young children who are nervous about going to school.

Brenda Marshall


I Am A Bird by Isabel Otter Illustrated by Fernando Martin Little Tiger ISBN 9781838910334 £11.99

An appealing informative book where we meet a bird who takes us “a tour of the skies” and introduces us to other birds. Vivid orange colour runs throughout the book and has impact. Facts are clearly presented and are accessible. I particularly like the picture of the bird with captions that describe its features such as the beak, the bird’s ability to make a special oil that keeps its feathers waterproof, and the fact that they sometimes eat grit to help grind food down. Coverage includes a variety of nests, baby birds hatching, reasons why birds sing, what birds eat and why birds migrate. Then we meet birds come from all over the world, birds that cannot fly, birds who live near water and biggest and smallest birds in the world. The approach is friendly and welcoming – on the final page we see the birds we have met and there is the caption ”no worms were harmed in the making of this book”. An excellent introduction that informs and inspires children to find out more about the natural world. Highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall


Curious Kids: Bugs and Minibeasts by Jonny Marx Illustrated by Christiane Engel Little Tiger      ISBN 9781848579880     £10.99

A robustly produced book with pop-ups on each page, this would be an engaging introduction to the world of nature on the doorstep.  We meet caterpillars and butterflies, tadpoles and frogs, spiders, bees, ants and other creepy crawlies.  Simple facts are given for each creature along with some more intriguing information, such as that ants are the most common insects on earth, it takes 12 honeybees a lifetime to produce one teaspoon of honey and frogs absorb water through their skin. Budding young naturalists will enjoy the bright full-page illustrations whilst the pop-up element adds further enjoyment as does hunting for the bee on each page. The board book construction suggests this is for very young readers, and whilst it can certainly be shared with them (under supervision because of the moving pop-ups), the text is aimed at readers from 3-6, most of whom will need an adult to do the reading and join in with discussions about the creatures we meet.

Pam Dowson

Flip Flap Snap! Pets by Carmen Saldana Templar Books ISBN 9781787416598 £9.99

This book is such fun! It is a mix and match pop-up book featuring puppy, rabbit, gecko, kitten and budgerigar. The pop-ups are fascinating and the pets’ eyes are appealing. We see the sounds they make and there is information about each pet under the flaps, written as poems, such as for the Gecko:

“And when I get hungry

It’s insects I munch

Crickets especially

Make a good lunch!”

The different combinations are most entertaining. I loved the GECKIT and the BUDGERO. Highly recommended for young children.

Brenda Marshall


La-La-Llama by Matilda Rose Illustrated by Tim Budgen Hodder ISBN 9781444955835 £6.99

Prince Leo comes to the Magic Pet Shop in Twinkleton-Under-Beanstalk to collect a special pet delivery. Prince Leo, is very shy and does all he can to avoid attention. His pet is La-La-Lalama, a magic llama who loves singing. She accompanies Leo while he does his homework, goes to the library and yoga. La-La-Llama is loud and can be disruptive, so Leo takes her to the park. The llama is in her element and helps Leo make new friends. Leo signs up for a talent show. Leo is nervous, but L La-La-Lalama gives him confidence and performs alongside him, to the delight of the crowd. The final words of the story sum up the message “Because with friends by your side, you can do anything” The book has an attractive glittery cover and opens with a colourful map of fairyland. The text is accompanied by charming illustrations that convey character especially well. A delightful read with an important message.

Brenda Marshall


Lisette’s Green Sock written and illustrated by Catarina Valckx Gecko Press ISBN 9781776572830 £11.99

A delightful story by Dutch author/illustrator Catarina Valckx. Lisette the duck is delighted to find a pretty green sock. She enjoys wearing it until Tomcat and Timcat tease her about not wearing a pair. Lisette looks high and low, but cannot find the other sock. Her friend, Bert, comes to see her and wears the sock as a hat. Tomcat and Timcat appear with the other sock, but they do not let Lisette have it and throw it away. As a surprise, Lisette’s mother has knitted her a matching sock. Now both Lisette and Bert have hats. The end of the story is excellent as we see a fish using the hat that the bullies threw away, as a snug, green sleeping bag. This is a simple story with charming illustrations. It offers opportunities to think about friendship, happiness, changing perspectives, how to respond to bullies, making the most of what you have, being yourself and recycling. Ideal for sharing.

Brenda Marshall


Meet the Grumblies by John Kelly Illustrated by Carmen Saldaña  Little Tiger ISBN 9781788815765  £11.99

The cover of this book shows Grumble-Stick, Grumble-Rope and Grumble-Mud, who are assertive and confrontational. They bicker, until the peace of the village is disrupted by the arrival of the hungry Gobblestomp. The Grumblies unite to combat their ferocious opponent. The alliance works, and their solution involves a combination of each of the Grumblies’ preferred elements - stick, rope and mud. Once defeated, the Grumblies change their perception of the Gobblestop who, in turn, responds to their new attitude and offers to help them with their BIG plans for the village. The book is a good romp. The characters have attractive expressions. I particularly like the Gobblestop’s delight when he sees the squidgy-fruits, his panic as he falls into to the trap, and his pathetic face when he is caught. The artwork is bold and bright, and the text shows up clearly against the background colours. The overall design is effective. Some are full page spreads but other variations are employed which move us through the story.  Great for sharing in home or school, this is a book young children aged 3+ will enjoy, with important messages about attitudes, division and teamwork.

Brenda Marshall

Publication date   June 2020   Age range 3-6


The Mega Magic Teacher Swap by Rochelle Humes Illustrated by Rachel Suzanne Studio Press ISBN 9781787416017 £6.99

Mai and Rose are friends. They love Mrs Bee, their teacher, and do not want to move to their new class and their new teacher. If only they could stay with Miss Bee forever. Coco, Mai’s magic coconut, helps, but things do not turn out as the girls expect. This is an appealing story on an issue that will resonate with many children. There are opportunities to consider change, resilience, being nervous, bravery, growth and friendship, and the impact of wonderful teachers like Mrs Bee. Delightful artwork is enhances the story. I love the expressions on the children’s faces and the wonderful range of stationery on the endpapers. This picture book is a follow-up to the bestselling The Mega Magic Hair Swap, and is highly recommended

Brenda Marshall


This Is Crab by Harriet Evans  Illustrated by  Jacqui Lee Caterpillar Books ISBN 9781848579842  £10.99

The cheerful cover sets the tone for this “gripping, tipping, nipping interactive book. The colours are bright, the lettering clear and the artwork is appealing. Inside we are introduced to Crab, and are invited to wave our “arms in the air like claws to say hello”. On the next page we explore the ocean floor and are invited to “Shake the book from left to right to help Crab set off in a sideways scuttle.” This interactive approach continues throughout. It reinforces the learning and makes the book great fun to share. I enjoyed the humour of the text and the facial expressions, especially that of the Octopus and Crab’s expression as he loosens his shell. The pull-out coral and different layers of the seabed are charming and playful. Highly inventive, original, and perfect for sharing, this is an excellent introduction to crabs for young children..

Brenda Marshall


Who is in the Egg? Written and illustrated by Alexandra Milton   Boxer Books ISBN 9781912757626     £11.99

The clear, crisp, bold illustrations of this beautifully produced large format picture book would be an ideal accompaniment to board books for early book experience, but there’s enough language and interest to capture the imagination of older readers.  We learn that eggs come in many different sizes and indeed it’s not just birds that emerge from them – there are turtles, alligators, platypus and others.  Extra information on each creature is also provided which an adult sharing the book with a child can offer.  A satisfying book for sharing. Age range 2-5.

Pam Dowson


Curious Kids: Sea and Shore by Jonny Marx  Illustrated by Christiane Engel Caterpillar Books (www.littletiger.co.uk)              ISBN 9781848579903     £10.99

This book is for children aged 3 and over.  It starts cleverly with sunrise on the first double page spread and ends with sunset on the last double page.  As you read the book a wide variety of sea and shore creatures pop up on the pages.  Children will meet creatures big and small including jellyfish, starfish, crabs, seahorses, turtles, octopuses, fish, and dolphins.  The pop-ups are great fun and will grab the attention of the children as they discover the variety of life in the sea and on the shore.  An excellent first introduction to shoreline and marine ecosystems that will allow children to learn about the habitats of marine creatures.

Paul Baker


The Astronaut's Cat written and illustrated by Tohby Riddle Allen & Unwin ISBN 9781760524944 £11.99

The author, Tohby Riddle, is widely known for his picture story books. This is a very clever story based around the curiosity of a cat and celebrates the wonders of the moon and the beauty of the earth. The model for this story is the author’s own cat. Riddle describes her as an inside cat who spends time at the window gazing at the world outside. The cat dreams about being with an Astronaut and looks out of the spacecraft's window on the scenery of the Moon as the Astronaut works on the amazing dusty, rocky surface with the great heat of the day and the freezing cold at night. This worries the cat but she still looks amazing and, in the dream, she goes out of the spacecraft to experience the environment. The cat dreams of the big blue earth rising above the horizon of the moon and dreams that she is on the earth with colour, movement, plants, insects, birds and animals. This is an environment that does not have extreme daily heat and cold and has water. This is a superb book for young children which helps them understand the environmental differences between the moon and the earth. It is delightful and should be in early years’ classrooms and in homes.

Paul Baker


Recycling (An Eco Baby Series book) by Lorna Freytag Studio Press ISBN 9781787416703 £6.99

Eco Baby is a series of bright, bold books introducing the very youngest of children to environmental issues. This hardback book on recycling is a good way for very young children to start to understand about recycling and different ways of reusing materials. It is very much a book to be read to very young children. This is confirmed by the statement on the back which states that the book is for sharing with a child and the publishers say they do not recommend that the book is left with unsupervised children. With bright, bold illustrations and the simple text Lorna Freytag has provided a book on a very important environmental subject that can be read to the child as an early introduction to caring for our planet. Publication date September 2020 Age range 0-3

Paul Baker


Mole Hill written and illustrated by Alex Latimer OUP ISBN:978019277256-5 £6.99

Mole is a single parent living happily underground with his two children until one day they awake to the choking smell of diesel. Outside he finds three enormous diggers, intent upon destroying his home in order to build a shopping mall. How can one very small mole possibly persuade them to do otherwise? This one is both resourceful and fortunate in his location, because his bold claim that beneath them lie the bones of his last enemy is borne out by the fact this a dinosaur’s graveyard! Falling for this clever trick and fearing for their own extinction, the diggers flee and leave Mole Hill to its inhabitants.

From very young, we all love a “David and Goliath’ story and this fits the bill perfectly. Add to that a well paced rhyming narrative, brilliantly coloured, detailed diggers and dinosaur bones, plus a loving family unit and you have a winning formula. The cross section through Mole’s house is a delight and something young readers will want to explore and even recreate. The text lends itself to exploring adjectives and similes and the dialogue is excellent for group reading in parts in Year R/1, but measurements in ‘feet’ and a ‘mall’ night need some explanation.

Sue Barrett


Together written and illustrated Jane Chapman Little Tiger ISBN: 9781788816793 £11.99

An atmospheric picture book that highlights the special relationship between two gorillas The illustrations are an important part of the book. We start with an appealing picture of a tiny face surrounded by shady leaves. Then we are shown a close up of the baby gorilla’s face. Rain brings the sweetness of water and a shadow. Then we see a “scary” imposing face of an older gorilla. Like the tiny gorilla, the reader is intimidated. But appearances can be deceptive and the older animal offers kindness and a soft hand, friendship, comfort, food, and, ultimately, safety and happiness. I particularly like the way we see the relationship between the gorillas grow and develop. A sensitive story that celebrates tenderness and togetherness. Highly recommended for children aged 3+.

Brenda Marshall


Bloom by Anne Booth Illustrated by Robyn Wilson-Owen Hope in a Scary World series Tiny Owl ISBN 978-1910328446 £7.99

A charming picture book about a little girl who loves a beautiful flower. She talks to it every day, and the flower blooms. Then the angry owner of the flower shouts at her. The next day, the flower does not open and stays tight shut. The owner is mystified and tries watering it and moves it into the shade. Then he starts talking to it himself, telling it how wonderful he is, and how important his job is. He goes on to share his problems and says he is lonely. Still the flower remains closed. Eventually he asks the girl to come back. “Maybe she has some magic words which will make the flower bloom.” The little girl suggests he tells the flower how wonderful it is, and how much he loves it. He does so, and finds his own heart starts to fill with love. Then the flower blooms. This is a powerful story about how we treat people. It shows how the power of love and positive thinking can transform others, and ourselves. The illustrations are beautiful and complement the text. I particularly like the sensitive portrayal of the old man’s unhappiness. Highly recommended for children aged 3+.

Brenda Marshall


Oi Puppies by Kes Gray Illustrated by Jim Field Hachette Children’s Books ISBN 978144493-7367 £6.99

An hilarious and welcome addition to the ‘Oi’ animals series, who can resist a book full of puppies? Well, to start with, probably Dog who is trying to look after them all – that’s Buster and Jock and Tiddle and Rover and Milo, and oh so many more. Cat and Frog ask why they are all so badly behaved, why won’t they sit, as Spot hangs from Cat’s whiskers and Lollie chews Frog’s swimming trunks. Frog knows just what to do and rings the Oi Animal Seating Supply Company. Delivery Duck asks ‘Where do you want everything?’ and I love Frog’s reply – ‘On the next page please’. At which point each cute pup finds its own rhyming place where it is now happy to sit, from Smudge on some fudge to Rebel on a pebble and Cheeky on some tzatziki. Mind you, Frog could be in trouble at the end as he is pursued by many cats and tadpoles asking where they should sit – including Orange, Lemon, Squiggly and Billibob! This is arguably the best yet in this delightful series which encourages joining in with the appropriate rhyme and provides plenty of laughs along the way. Age range 2-6

Pam Dowson


The Bedtime Book by S. Marendaz Illustrated by Carly GledhillLittle Tiger ISBN 9781788815680 £11.99

An attractive picture book. Just as Frank the sausage dog is about to fall asleep, he is visited by Mouse who cannot sleep because she cannot find her bedtime book. She and Frank set out to find it. Their investigation involves encounters with Bella the Cat, Owl and Baby Hedgehog. Eventually the book is found, and Frank devises a new way of helping Mouse to get to sleep. This is a charming story which will appeal to young children. There is a good range of animal characters and the story encourages us to understanding other people’s motivations and feelings. Frank’s kindness and consideration is heartwarming, and the resolution of the mystery is interesting. The book provides opportunities to discuss a variety of issues including what to do if you lose something, empathy, adapting behaviour, routines, sharing, and favourite books. The bold illustrations are an important part of the book. Many involve starry or black night time backgrounds. I particularly enjoyed the pages where Frank and Mouse are scurrying and panting as they search for the book, and where Frank is sniffing the trail. The final double page is a peaceful, soothing scene where Mouse and Frank are fast asleep beside each other, as Owl flies overhead. A perfect bedtime read for children aged 3-6.

Brenda Marshall


I’m Sorry! by Barry Tims Illustrated by Sean Julian Little Tiger ISBN 978`788815888 £11.99

The cover of this book is delightful – an owl and a squirrel are shown in a heartfelt embrace. Swoop and Scribble are great friends and decide to find a home they can share. They move in, and enjoy sitting on the veranda. Then they have a quarrel, and both creature are upset. We follow their emotions as they work their way back to friendship. The illustrations are superb. I particularly like the double page showing Swoop and Scribble glaring at each other. This is an excellent story that teaches about friendship, sharing, working through difficulties and meaningful apologies. There is much to discuss, such as “Even best friends don’t always think alike”; “sorry” only works if you mean it” and “”From now on, “ said Swoop, ”let’s always make our plans together.” Highly recommended for children aged 3-6.

Brenda Marshall


The Crow and the Peacock written and illustrated by Johanna Fernihough OUP ISBN 9780192771551 £6.99

Crow thinks he is happy, until he encounters a beautiful dove with its soothing coo. The Dove says it thought it was happy until it heard the magnificent song of the Nightingale. Crow then learns that Nightingale envies Cockerel who, in turn, envies Swan, who envies Peacock. When Peacock reveals that he is not happy as he is kept in a cage, Crow realizes that happiness is internal and that he was happy all along. This is a charming story with an uplifting moral. Bright illustrations accompany the text. I particularly enjoyed the page where Crow hears Nightingale singing at night, the brightness of Cockerel’s Cock a doodle doo, and, of course, the splendour of Peacock his cage. Highly recommended for children aged 2+ as a fable about happiness, freedom, identity and what is really important in life. It would form the basis of an excellent assembly.

Brenda Marshall


There’s a LION in the Library! by Dave Skinner Illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey Orchard Books ISBN 978140835 3523 £6.99

A humorous story based on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Little Lucy Lupin may look like the sweetest, nicest, loveliest little girl in all the world, but she is a terrible liar. Three times she causes chaos in the library when she says a lion is on the loose. However she receives her just deserts when her lie becomes a reality. The story moves at a fast pace and would read well aloud. Guillerey’s artwork repays close observation, especially the facial expressions in the scenes of panic when the library is evacuated. The slow reveal ending of the book is a perfect match of text and illustration. I love the expression on the lion’s face! A delight for children aged 2-5.

Brenda Marshall


I Can Do It! A Book of 5 Fastenings by Patricia Hegarty. Illustrated by Hilli Kushnir Caterpillar Books ISBN: 9781848578814 £9.99

Three to five is such a crucial time for children as they try to develop the independence required for starting school. High on the agenda is the need for them to be able to dress themselves, which is where this delightful book comes in, moving on as it does from Hegarty’s earlier introduction to fastenings, Zip It!. Glossy, tactile cardboard pages depict how we need to get dressed to go outside, with illustrated instructions on the left page for the fastening on the clothing of an enlarged picture of an appealing child character on the right hand page. We move from buttons to zips, Velcro, poppers and finally to those tricky shoelaces as we put on more and more layers. There is a sturdy example of each fastening for little fingers to practise on and they appear to be robust enough to withstand multiple attempts. The popper is particularly difficult and requires a lot of pressure, but the words acknowledge this: “You have to push hard, but you can do it!” Brightly coloured thick pages, clear instructions in a good sized font and plenty of encouragement make this very appealing to young children. It would be a useful addition to every Nursery and Reception class.

Sue Barrett



When I Grow up I Want to Be by Rosamund Lloyd Illustrated by Richard Merritt Little Tiger Press ​ISBN​9781912756384 £6.99

This small board book introduces a range of individuals with different professions from firefighter to athlete. Each double page includes a new individual greeting the reader alongside an image of them in action. Lift the flaps and we find out more about what they do, their workplace and equipment. Efforts have been made to ensure representation and diversity; it is great for example to see women introducing themselves as astronauts and footballers. The small-scale format and simplified text means detail is lacking – the job of the teacher reduced to helping children learn lots of ‘things’ for example. This book might make a useful addition to a collection of books about occupations or people who help us in an Early Years’ classroom. Young children will enjoy the detailed action pictures and love lifting the flaps, though some of these are very small and might be tricky for little fingers to manage and hard to look after in the classroom. This title is a follow up to When I grow up I want to drive.

Sue McGonigle


Tim Hopgood’s ABC written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood Oxford University Press​ ISBN 9780192772527 £6.99

Of course, alphabet board books are not new, but this is a good example of the genre. In a strong, square format, the illustrations are lush and lavish, with each letter being represented by something in nature. This provides something of a problem with those most difficult letters q, u, x and y. Hopgood has come up with Quail, Universe, Xerus (apparently a kind of long-tailed African ground squirrel!) and most imaginatively You where a shiny foil mirror shows the reader’s reflection. Most letters have a page to themselves with double page spreads for jungle, polar bear, tiger and zebra. There’s more to talk about here than just the letters of the alphabet – what can you see in clouds, what are those plants growing in the desert, what creatures are on the island? A worthwhile buy for the budding bookworm. Age range 1-4.
Pam Dowson

The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom by Steve Smallman Illustrated by Nick Schon: Little Tiger ISBN 9781788816595 £6.99

A delightful story set “when the world” was new. A monkeys admires the bright colours of the birds. All the creatures round him are “as dull as an elephant poo.” Monkey finds a paintbox, and seeks to rectify this. He creeps up on creatures while they are napping and paints them. He creates some stunning designs. When the creatures wake, they are not happy and take their revenge. The tale is told in rhyme, and moves at a good pace. There is plenty of humour and fun, and much to discuss. Nick Schon’s illustrations enhance the text. I particularly like the facial expressions of the animals. Highly recommended for children aged 3-6. (First published in 2007.)

Brenda Marshall

Lenny Makes a Wish written and illustrated by Paula Metcalf Oxford University Press ISBN 9780192758866 £6.99

Another book aimed at the EYFS market from Oxford Owls. Lenny the rabbit is out picking spring flowers for his mother when he meets a ‘fish’ swimming all alone in a pond. Being the kindly chap he is, he offers friendship, but of course there is a problem: they cannot live in each other’s environment and rabbits cannot swim (cue a lesson in water safety). With great sadness, Lenny donates his scarf as a memento of their brief friendship. Later in the summer, when Lenny and his mum are out enjoying a picnic, a frog, identifiable from the scarf it is wearing, appears. And yes, guess what, the ‘fish’ turns out to have been a tadpole. The whole is told in rhyme with all the benefits of patterned and predictable language for young children, and the illustrations are full of movement and detail to support the text. I was initially put off by the inside front cover telling me why l am expected to love this book (can I decide for myself please?) but it does provide ideas to springboard discussion which might be helpful.

Elizabeth Broad


My Mama written and illustrated by Annemarie van Haeringen Translated by Bill Nagelkerke Gecko Press ISBN 9781776572670 £11.99

A delightful celebration of the relationship between a mother and child. The book features sensitive illustrations of a baby elephant and his Mama in familiar situations, such as playing cars and shopping. The text is spoken by the naughty baby boy elephant. I particularly enjoyed the pages where there is a deliberate discrepancy between the text and the illustration which raises a smile. Mama’s patterned dress is a delight. Children will like the page where the young elephant “waters” a plant by peeing into it. A book to enjoy and share. Age range 3-6.

Brenda Marshall


ABC of Kindness by Patricia Hegarty Illustrated by Summer Macon Caterpillar Books ISBN 9781848579910 £6.99

A charming alphabet book in pastel colours, which highlights ways in which we can be kind to each other. The drawings feature animals have delightful facial expressions, and the rhyming text reads well aloud. A well designed board book with an uplifting theme.

A is for all of us be everyone’s friend.

B is for believing things will turn out well in the end.

Brenda Marshall


There’s a LION in the Library! by Dave Skinner Illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey Orchard Books ISBN 9781408353516 £12.99

A humorous story based on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Little Lucy Lupin may look like the sweetest, nicest, loveliest little girl in all the world, but she is a terrible liar. Three times she causes chaos in the library when she says a lion is on the loose. However she receives her just deserts when her lie becomes a reality. The story moves at a fast pace and would read well aloud. Guillerey’s artwork repays close observation, especially the facial expressions in the scenes of panic when the library is evacuated. The slow reveal ending of the book is a perfect match of text and illustration. I love the expression on the lion’s face! A delight for children aged 2-5.

Brenda Marshall


Avocado Asks What Am I? written and illustrated by Momoko Abe Orchard ISBN 9781408358221 £12.99

A witty book, based in a supermarket. Avocado is happy in the fruit and vegetable aisle until a small customer asks if an avocado is a fruit or a vegetable. Avocado does not know the answer, so he approaches other products in the supermarket. None of them can help. Avocado feels increasingly isolated. Eventually Tomato has a refreshing response – it doesn’t matter. Just be yourself. The end of the book shows Avocado with other products whose identity Is unclear. Colourful, bold illustrations support the text. A humorous introduction to identity, belonging, self-esteem and individuality, it would make a great assembly.

Brenda Marshall


Bear Shaped by Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden OUP ISBN 9780192772114 £6.99

This sensitive book explores grieving, loss and moving forward. Jack is an autistic boy who has a very close relationship with his Bear. Jack was able to hide behind Bear in situations where he felt awkward.

But one day Bear disappears. Jack is devastated .He and his parents spread the word that bear is missing. People respond by sending him bears, letters, notes and pictures of their own bears. “Somehow, they all understood how Jack felt. Many of them had known that empty sad space too.”

Over time Jack realises how lucky he was to have bear, and starts to feel affection for his memories of Bears. He decides to give away the bears he has been given so other children could have something to help them feel brave. At the end of the story Jack realises Bear will always be a part of him, and ” he would always carry him in his heart”. Variation font size is used effectively to convey Jack’s feelings. The book is based on a true story, and Jack himself posed for all the beautiful drawings that enhance the text. Highly recommended for children aged 0-5, and for anyone coping with loss.

Brenda Marshall

Pug Hug written and illustrated by Zehra Hicks Hachette Children’s ISBN 9781444949971 £12.99

The bold, simple illustrations in Pug Hug will be attractive to young readers, a good next step from board books perhaps. With a small amount of text on each page it will be a good introduction to the printed word, distinguishing print from pictures. The page-turning story follows the well-trodden path of a creature seeking something – in this case pug hoping for someone to give him a hug. A trail of various animals are all too busy or not interested, until crocodile, approaching from the traditionally sinister right-hand side of the page, going against the usual flow, is only too willing to help out. Of course, pug escapes, right into the arms of his little girl owner, and all the other animals he has met along the way. A nice one to share. Age range 2 – 5.

Pam Dowson


Who Said Woof? by Becky Davies Illustrated by Yi-Hsuan Wu Little Tiger ISBN: 9781912756339 £6.99

A charming lift-the-flap book which is great fun. The author provides a range of creatures for us to consider as we work out who said woof? The illustrations are delightful and the creatures have appealing eyes. I particularly like the goldfish and the tortoise. Each creature has a cut-away flap with texture so children can feel the soft fur of the bunny and the rougher coat of the guinea pig. I loved the surprise of the mirror ending. Highly recommended for young readers.

Also in the series is Who Said Moo? by Becky Davies Illustrated by Yi-Hsuan Wu Little Tiger ISBN: 9781912756322 £6.99 which adopts a similar interactive approach.

Brenda Marshall


Plant and Grow by Patricia Hegarty Illustrated by Thomas Elliot Caterpillar Books  ISBN 9781848578937 £5.99

This touch and trace book in the Baby 101 Science series is a learning book for babies. The bold illustrations on every page allow the baby to touch and trace the words and will allow not only plenty of interaction between parent and baby, but also teach them about how things grow. There is a good deal of learning and enjoyment here and the surprise lift up flap at the end, allows a fun ending and offers possibilities of further learning and stories to be developed.

Paul Baker


The Moonlight Zoo by Maudie Powell-Tuck Illustrated by Karl James Mountford Little Tiger Press ISBN 9781788814027    £12.99

A shiny cut-out cover entices the reader into Eva’s search for her lost cat Luna. Following noises from under her bed she finds herself in the Moonlight Zoo where a welcoming wolf explains that it is where lost animals are kept safe.  Eva is taken through the zoo, looking for Luna, seeing a myriad of lost animals on her way, and of course finding her at the end.

Using a palette of mostly pinks and purples, the illustrations are extravagant and children will enjoy peeping through the cut-outs of the robust pages.  For children who have lost a pet, this book could offer some solace. Aged 3 – 6.

Pam Dowson


A Little Bit Different written and illustrated by Claire Alexander words and picture ISBN: 9780711245457 £11.99

A charming story about the ploofers who are planning to do something special, all together. Then they notice a gap – one of the ploofers has chosen to do something different! Immediately the main body of the ploofers turn their backs and criticise the one who chose to be different. Then one ploofer appreciates the beauty of what the individual ploofer has done. The positivity spreads gradually and the mood changes to acceptance and, finally, celebration. A simple story with a positive message about accepting and valuing difference. The cutaway cover is particularly appealing. Age range 3 - 5

Brenda Marshall


I Love You More And More by Nicky Benson   Illustrated by Jonny Lambert Little Tiger Press ISBN: 9781788813433. £4.99

Parent bear (gender unspecified, so more flexible) begins the day expressing love for bear cub. As they walk through the birch forest past other creatures with their young: foxes, caribou and otter, Bear explains how s/he loves cub more than anything else, so that by the evening s/he reveals how her love grows more and more each day. On each of the double board page spreads this is written in rhyming couplets which are in a clear font and curving lines. The illustrations have a collage effect and the shading on the bears gives them both weight and volume. The pages are a pleasure to browse through because of the harmonious colours and varied viewpoints and small fingers will be able to turn them easily.

For me, though, the illustrations outweigh the text, because I found some rhythms a little cumbersome (“I love you more than anything - I cannot name just one reason”) and some concepts a little puzzling: do trees love to change with every season? Why are waterfalls personified so that they love to splash on the bears? This may be a little nit-picking, because this addition to the “I love you” genre will undoubtedly prove popular with Nursery and Reception children.

Sue Barrett


Secret Agent Elephant by Eoin McLaughlin Illustrated by Ros Collins Orchard Books ISBN 9781408354230 £12.99

This is a hilarious book about an elephant who wants to get into spy school but lacks the skills to pass the entrance tests. He is unable to resist mini-pizzas but he does look wonderful in in his tuxedo! The bright illustrations are superb and capture the flamboyance of the would-be spy. Once Secret Agent Elephant scrapes through the tests he has a mission, to save the world from a dangerous international supervillain, Vincent le Morte. Will he succeed? Children age 3 – 5 will enjoy the fun of this story, but older children and adults will be amused by some of the spy references and jokes. Highly recommended. Agent 00-elephant is a winner.

Brenda Marshall


A Number of Numbers – Search and Find by A J Wood and Mike Jolley Illustrated by Allan Saunders Wide Eyed Publishing ISBN 9781786035363  £12.99

This heavy large-format book is designed for multiple usage, and it certainly requires lots of poring over.  The numbers 1 – 20 are given individually illustrated double-page spreads crammed with detail and things to find in ‘Where’s Wally’ style. The number six for example asks us to find 6 cannonballs, 6 brave knights, 6 treasure chests, 6 flags, 6 shields and 6 golden keys all hidden in a busy castle.  We jump from 20 to 50 with the states of America and then 100 where we must count 100 yellow hard hats on a building site. It’s not a book to teach counting, but will reinforce number recognition for young mathematicians whilst giving them lots more to look at and talk about. Age range 2 -6.

Pam Dowson


One Runaway Rabbit by David Metzenthen Illustrated by Mairead Murphy Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781911631484 £10.99

This is a clever book about a curious pet rabbit who leaves the safety of the bushy garden and arrives in the wild world of suburbia at night. The text is minimalist. There are only 8 sentences of three words each.  This is very effective as it helps focus attention on the clever illustrations which help to convey the story and characters of the creatures. The challenge encourages even the youngest of readers to use their powers of perception and imagination to fill out the narrative.  It also promotes discussion and sharing of ideas. The illustrations are beautifully designed with good use of angles and perspective. This is a most impressive inter-active book. Highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall


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

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