Up to age 5 (Reception/Foundation) 2019

reviews added August 2019

Once Upon A Unicorn Horn written and illustrated by Beatrice Blue Frances Lincoln   ISBN: 9781786035882      £12.99

First Editions is a new sub-imprint of Frances Lincoln Books showcasing debut texts.  This is the first book by Beatrice Blue, a freelance artist living in Montreal, which sets out to explain how unicorns got their horns. The story resonates with kindness and a willingness to go the extra mile to help a friend, and the illustrations have a natural exuberance that is entirely in keeping with the underlying message.  Throw in a spot of magic and imagination, and there is a text that will keep small children absorbed for some time.  Watch out for subsequent titles relating to mermaids and dragons.

Liz Broad


Meet The Penguins written and illustrated by Mike Brownlow OUP ISBN 9780192768674     £6.99

Two delightfully quirky depictions of penguins arrive on Page 1 with their luggage and proceed to ask a number of animals, “Please, can we play?”. Unfortunately, despite all the fun activities they see taking place, the answer is always negative. I loved the extra layer of meaning in each of the animals’ replies: the elephant has ‘big’ things to do, the fox is ‘in the middle of something’ (literally a soft play area full of balls) and the rabbit ‘has places to go’ - ironic as he is on a treadmill! Just as the penguins give up hope, a bear cub arrives and asks if he can play with them. Suddenly, from their luggage, the penguins produce  an enormous range of even more fun activities: roller skates, a unicycle, even a bouncy castle. No wonder the other animals are enticed to ask if they can join in. These penguins are more fun than they at first appear! Their equivocal reply is just perfect.
A lovely story about welcoming people and making friends to enjoy in Reception or Y1. There is plenty to discuss and learn about the games in the illustrations and the embedded jokes within the text. The phrase “Can we play please?” is repeated so often children will enjoy joining in with it. Have it in your class library.

Sue Barrett


Humperdink Our Elephant Friend by Sean Taylor Illustrated by Claire Alexander   words and pictures ISBN 9781786035424     £11.99

A charming story with gentle illustrations and an important message. Humperdink the baby elephant joins the playgroup. He is friendly and wants to fit in, but he is not cut out for the sort of games the children play such as hide-and-seek, hairdressing and dressing up. Humperdink breaks the slide and everyone, including Humperdink, is very sad. Then everything changes as the children try playing the games that Humperdink likes. The children have fun and learn new forms of imaginative play like elephant-walking, elephant-stomping, jungle climbing, jungle swinging and jungle jumping from their elephant friend. This book teaches young children about patience, friendship, empathy, acceptance and integration. Highly recommended for Early Years.

Brenda Marshall

Here Comes Stinkbug! by Tohby Riddle  Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781760523527  £11.99

Stinkbug is true to his name. Sometimes his stink is so powerful that other insects move away from him. Stinkbug starts to worry about his smell and not fitting in. Then he is charmed by the spider, until he starts to suspect an ulterior motive. He repels spider by producing stink, and realises that there are times when stinking can be advantageous!

There is plenty of humour in this book. The cartoon type illustrations are delightful and the eyes and legs are full of character. The language used is witty, and the use of speech bubbles helps the story move at a quick pace.

It can be used as an introduction to insects. Other themes include diversity, inclusion, anxiety, deception, and being yourself but, above all, it is a very enjoyable read. A must for Early Years.

Brenda Marshall

Happy To Be Me by Emma Dodd  Hachette Children’s Books ISBN 9781408355701    £6.99

This book for early years is a wonderful introduction to a ‘healthy, happy me’ topic as it celebrates being body-positive and learning to love all the things that make you wonderfully unique. With beautifully bright and bold illustrations, the book will really appeal to young children. Each picture celebrates another part of the body in a way that will feel so familiar to a young audience and is bound to bring out giggles and smiles. It would be great as a stimulus for circle time or PSHE lessons, as it provides much space to talk about gratitude for simple pleasures and bodies that allow us to ‘taste, see, smell’. It would also be great for a topic on the senses. A lovely addition to a school library or nursery setting.

Laura Davies

Frockodile by Jeanne Willis Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis  Hodder Children's Books  ISBN 9781444908244 £6.99

Cliff is a boy crocodile who finds “a slinky frock, stiletto heels and a string of pearls”. He wants to wear them, but is worried about how his friends and his fierce “motor-biking baddy”dad will react. When the hyenas laugh at him, Cliff pretends he is rehearsing for a play. His friend creates a summer show with Cliff is the star, but what will his dad think of him?

The rhyming story is vibrant, fast paced and energetic and reads well aloud. It deals with cross dressing and stereotypes. Bright, colourful illustrations accompany the text. Highly recommended as a funny story that celebrates inclusion, acceptance and being yourself.

Brenda Marshall

Oi Duck-Billed Platypus! by Kes Gray  Illustrated by Jim Field  Hodder Children’s Books.  ISBN      9781444-937329     £12.99

The Gray/Field partnership have already delighted young readers with Oi Frog!, Oi Dog! and Oi Cat! where animals are given a rhyming item on which to sit, which is much funnier than would first appear. This new title immediately alerts us to something different – Duck-Billed Platypus? Whatever rhymes with that? Or indeed Ostrich, or Hippopotamus, Ibex or lobster? Well, nothing!  But Frog has a brainwave, and asks the creatures about their first names instead. Solution! So Dolly the Platypus sits on a brolly, Kate the Kookaburra sits on a gate, while Jean the Jaguar sits on baked beans.  Frog finds something for all the impossibly named animals to sit on, until Geraldine the Kangaroo tells him all her many names. Frog’s response? ‘Sit where you like!’

Children will enjoy offering their own suggestions for the rhymes, as well as joining in once they have heard the book.  A fun way to help young readers learn about rhyme, and some unusual animals! Age range 2 – 5.

Pam Dowson


Good Night Panda written and illustrated by Steve Anthony    Hodder Children's Books ISBN 9781444927894 £6.99

This gentle picture book explains to young children the importance of night time rituals. If you have a toddler or infant who is resistant to brushing their teeth, having a bath, changing into pyjamas, or avoiding going to bed altogether, this is a great one to share! With sly comic irony, the book explores the gentle interplay between   friends Hippopotamus, Sloth Lemur, Mr Skunk, Sheep and Mr Panda. The pictures tell the story beautifully through large spreads, and textured images. I particularly liked the use of space to indicate the subtle need of each character to copy each other’s behaviour. I did enjoy the humour of skunk only having a bath once a year. I can imagine young children saying the same thing deeming further washing unnecessary.  A welcome addition to the series of Mr Panda books which will delight many. Age range 3 – 5.

Isabel Macdonald


The Big Race written and illustrated by David Barrow Hodder ISBN: 9781444929294 £6.99

This story is tremendous fun. A Big Race is taking place, and some strong animals are taking part, including a crocodile, a cheetah, a buffalo and an African hoopoe. Aardvark is only small but she is determined to take part and give it her best shot, even though other animals tell her she won’t succeed. There is plenty of fun along the way with delightful illustrations of animal running, cycling, plunging down a waterfall, swimming underwater, walking a tightrope, swinging on ropes and sailing in hot air balloons. An entertaining book with a message about challenging yourself, not giving up and that taking part is more important than winning.

Brenda Marshall


The Big Red Rock written and illustrated by Jess Stockham   Child's Play (International) Ltd ISBN 978-1786280022 £6.99

This comic tale is one to be enjoyed as a read aloud to your child and I am sure that they will want to return to this again and again. It offers some key points for discussion, tapping into young children’s developing ability to see something from another perspective. I am sure that young children early in their reading development will enjoy the humour and slapstick characters as they try to find their way round the big red rock as well as their reactions to the intransigence of the red boulder. The illustrations are engaging and make great use of the cumulative sequence of enlisting friends to come and solve a problem together. Small, short captions, and speech bubbles with easy repetitive and recognisable language will ensure youngsters join in. Ideal for the early stages of reading. Age range 3 – 5.

Isabel Macdonald


The Blue Balloon by Mick Inkpen Hodder Children’s Books ISBN: 9781444922561 £6.99

It is 30 years since Kipper first appeared in public. To mark the occasion Hodder has issued a new edition of this popular classic, which has lost none of its appeal. To quote Mick Inkpen  “The success of the book confirmed for me what we all understand intuitively; that playfulness is important. ”This is a beautifully produced book with fold-out pages that reflect the balloon’s magical qualities and captivate children. A  gem.

Brenda Marshall


The Colour of Happy by Laura Baker Illustrated by Angie Rozelaar Hodder Children’s Books ISBN: 9781444939682 £6.99 Paperback. ISBN: 9781444939675 £12.99 Hardback

A beautiful picture book that explores a range of feelings. The rhyming text guides the reader through a variety of emotions experienced by a young boy and his dog and a dandelion clock. The use of colour and the illustrations are excellent at conveying the different moods. It is a charming book to share with very young children that will encourage exploration of feelings and empathy. Highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall


The Little Green Hen written and illustrated by Alison Murray Orchard Books ISBN 978-1408340219  £6.99

A charming retelling of a traditional tale. Little Green Hen lives on top of a hill, inside an old apple tree. She looks after the tree and sows its seeds so more trees grow. She asks some animals to help her with the upkeep of the orchard. Dog, sparrow and Squirrel are happy to assist, but others refuse. Then there is a winter flood, and Peacock, Fox and the fat, ginger Cat come for help as the waters rise. The artwork is attractive, with bright colours. A great way to introduce the environment to young children, and to encourage working together.

Brenda Marshall


When the Crocodiles Came to Town written and illustrated by Magda Brol Orchard Books ISBN 9781408350874   £12.99

The crocodiles have arrived in Dullsville, the world’s most boring town. They did not fit in, and made no attempt to fit in. They ignored the rules and even the mayor was irritated by them. On market day they offered everyone ice cream with strawberry sauce, but the people of Dullsville did not like anything messy or fun. They tell the crocs to go. Just as they are leaving, Glen and Freda Grabbit, the naughtiest thieves in the land, appear, and do their worst. The Grabbits are bought to justice by the brave crocs, and their secret weapon.  A lively story with exuberant illustrations about tolerance, newcomers, first impressions, prejudice and diversity. A great read for 3 to 5 year olds from an exciting debut author and illustrator.

Brenda Marshall

Moon River Based on the song by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini. Illustrations by Tim Hopgood.  Oxford University Press ISBN 9780192746399  £12.99

If you know Mancini’s Moon River it is impossible to read this as a text without drifting off into song yourself but that just makes for a more magical, shared experience. The book comes with a singalong CD so the tuneless amongst us have no excuse not to join in and a there is second version where the book is narrated, with page turning signals to help new readers. Tim Hopgood has managed to capture the magic and enchantment of this beautiful and well-known song. Lavish indigo and cobalt blue colours create a dreamlike state reflecting the river meandering through the text. The young, dreaming adventurers travel along, passing well known landmarks from around the world - it could well be my bucket list in picture form. I rate this book highly for parents, grandparents and anyone who wants to impart the spirit of love, adventure and imagination to children from 2-10 years. As Tim Hopgood says in his dedication it’s “for all the day-dreamers of this WORLD”.

Jane Macleod

Hugless Douglas and the Baby Birds by David Melling Hodder ISBN 9781444925104 £12.99

Another fabulous Hugless Douglas book. Douglas is busy with his spring collection when a nest of eggs comes crashing down. Douglas says he will look after them while Swoopy Bird builds a new home.  Douglas does his best but it is not an easy task. Bunnies help to hug the eggs. Eventually all is well and there is a group Daisy-Chain Hug Delightful illustrations accompany the charming story which children will enjoy. I also like the suggestions of things to spot on a Spring Day, and instructions for making some spring friends. Do buy a copy.

Brenda Marshall

The New Baby and Me by Christine Kidney.  Illustrated by Hoda Haddadi.  Tiny Owl.  ISBN 9781910328187   £12.99

A story about five brothers waiting for the arrival of a new baby in their family.  The brothers are expecting another brother and are surprised when the new baby turns out to be a girl, leading them to wonder what she will be like, will enjoy doing and will grow up to be. This story explores the gender stereotypes that children may already have developed. It can be used to celebrate uniqueness and to foster and inspire an understanding that you can achieve whatever you set out to. The illustrations add to the charm and theme of individuality as they are cleverly collaged producing quirky characterisations and backdrop scenes.  The book includes information about the artist and provides some lovely ideas for those children who are expecting a new baby in the family. Recommended for children 3 and up, and for parents and teachers.

Jane Macleod

Going to the Volcano by Andy Stanton.  Illustrated by Miguel Ordonez. Hodder ISBN 9781444933451  £6.99

This is a totally silly funny story that has Jane-O and Dwayne-O going to see a volcano!  Bold cartoon like brightly coloured illustrations take the reader from spread to spread.  The plot follows the two on their madcap journey to the volcano – where every line of text is forced in to rhymes with the phrase ‘to see the volcano’.  Along the way they collect a cast of characters who all end up seeing the volcano – so there is lots to look at and pick out – especially ‘the Lava Girls’.  There is a lovely character key on the end papers of the book, but perhaps the main message might be that it would be good to consider one’s actions before dashing off to do something quite dangerous!

Tricia Adams

Everybunny Dream written and illustrated by Ellie Sandall Hodder ISBN 9781444933864£12.99

A charming book. The text is lyrical and rhyming. Beautiful drawings of rabbits fill the pages. At the end of a busy day the rabbits don pyjamas, prepare for bed and snuggle. After a gentle joke, bunnies and foxes settle and dream. A perfect bedtime story that is ideal for sharing.

Brenda Marshall

Dog in Boots written and illustrated by Paula Metcalf. OUP. ISBN 9780192758842 £6.99

A lovely quirky, humorous story to enjoy reading aloud and reading again. Phillip, a dachshund has a crush on his neighbour Penelope, but she appears to be very tall and he doesn’t think she will be interested in a short, small dog.  The story charts the course of this doggy romance as Phillip goes out of his way to try to impress Penelope by being taller, supported by his friend Ralph. Cue many funny antics as the friends try to help Phillip gain height and get into various scrapes. Phillip eventually gains Penelope’s attention, but I will let you find out whether they go out on a date. A charming, funny story to enjoy with your child and especially if you are a dog lover, as you will understanding the layers of humour relating to the dachshund breed’s ears and legs. Age range 3 – 5.

Isabel Macdonald


Cyril the Lonely Cloud by Tim Hopgood  Oxford University Press ISBN: 9780192767585   £11.99

Poor Cyril the cloud! No one is ever pleased to see him, as he spoils everyone’s fun, and makes everything grey and sad. Cyril drifts far and wide, looking for a friendly face. Eventually he discovers a new land where everything is baking hot. Cyril drifts across, providing shade. Everyone welcomes him. Cyril is overwhelmed with happiness and cries tears of joy. His tears moisten the land and everything smiles. Cyril has achieved his ambition – he looks down on a land that smiles back at him. The illustrations are superb, especially the double page smiling lion. A beautiful book that encourages young children to think about weather, water, and having a positive outlook. Aged 2 – 5.

Brenda Marshall

Chatterbox Bear written and illustrated by Pippa Curnick Hodder Children’s Books. ISBN 9781444944129 £6.99 Paperback. ISBN 9781444944112 £12.99 Hardback.

Gary the bear is a chatterbox, but he can be irritating and very few bears want to listen. He sets sail to find new friends and arrives on an island where the birds don’t understand him. Eventually Dot the bird finds a way to communicate that everyone can understand. This book is great fun, and it teaches about friendship, patience, understanding, empathy, language barriers, co-operation tolerance and diversity. The illustrations are colourful, bold and full of energy. Great fun to share with younger readers aged 3 - 5

Brenda Marshall

Toby and The Tricky Things by Lou Peacock. Illustrated by Christine Pym. Nosy Crow. ISBN 9781788002653 £11.99

A warm family tale that will resonate with mums and children everywhere. Mrs Elephant is always telling Toby that he is her ‘big boy’, now that baby sister Iris has come along. Whilst Toby relishes his growing independence and finds success with pouring his own milk and reading his own stories, some things still remain tricky and he wishes his mum had time to help him with his buttons and wellies and bum wiping. This story offers opportunities for discussion with children about sharing their successes and highlighting determination and perseverance when mastering new and tricky things. It could be a great tool for building self-esteem and a have-a go-attitude in children aged 2-6 years. The illustrations support the text in their warmth and humour and portrayal of a busy family life. The love the characters have for each other shines through with entwined trunks and gentle touching gestures. I would thoroughly recommend this as a gift for a toddler when a new baby comes along and for use in nursery and reception classes when encouraging independence and self care skills.

Jane Macleod

Lots of Frogs by Howard Calvert. Illustrated by Claudia Boldt Hodder Children’s Books. ISBN 9781444939644  £12.99

This fun-filled tale with its twist ending is, as the title suggests, about “Lots of Frogs.” Tommy decides to take into his show-and -tell lesson the proverbial box of frogs. Determined to keep the all singing, dancing, jumping frogs under control, he squeezes the box tightly while his classmates look on. Unfortunately, an ill-timed cough loosens his grip and the lid falls off… “all the frogs, go berserk. Screams and Shouts- no more work. Children laugh, teachers shriek as frogs play hide and seek.” The rest of the story tells how Tommy attempts to recapture the frogs and return them safely to the box. The tale is very simply told in short, rhyming sentences with bold, fun illustrations that capture the colour and chaos that the frogs bring. The story lends itself to counting activities as the frogs are recaptured and the illustrator uses numbers on the page. This book from a debut author would be a super story to share with young children and would be a useful resource on the number table of a nursery or reception class.

Jane Macleod

This Book Just Stole My Cat! written and illustrated by Richard Byrne  OUP

ISBN 9780192767127 £11.99

This will be a familiar format to readers who have enjoyed Byrne’s previous book “This Book Just Ate My Dog”. It features Ben out playing with his cat when - you’ve guessed it -  the cat half disappears into the centre fold of the book itself. This quirky illustration will appeal to young readers as you discuss where the cat has gone.  The next page reveals the cat has totally disappeared from Ben’s world and has, as he sees it, been stolen by his book. His friend Bella appears to investigate, and she, too, disappears into the centrefold of the story along with a rescue dog, rescue truck and rescue helicopter. Finally Ben, too, disappears from the reader’s view into the book. With no rescuers left it is down to the reader to do some rescuing. Ben sends back instructions for the reader to carry out and through a process of reader participation and physical interaction of tickling and shaking hey presto all those who have disappeared are returned to the book.  The text is large, clear and bold and reassuringly simple on the page for young independent readers. The illustrations are bright, characterful and engaging and will appeal to young children from 3-7 years and anyone else who loves tickling!

Jane Macleod

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