Up to age 5 (Reception/Foundation) 2017

10 reasons to love an elephant, Catherine Barr, illustrated by Hanako Clulow

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847809407 £9.99

This is one of a new series which gives children ten reasons why each animal is amazing, and five ways they can show their affection. The book has a cut out of an elephant on the front cover and a double page spread for each of the reasons. There are two species of elephant - African and Indian. They have the biggest noses in the world. Forest elephants eat seeds that pass through their bodies and out in their poo. The seeds start growing and plants are spread around the forest. Elephants can talk with their feet. Calves and female elephants stay together in herds headed by their grandmothers who are very knowledgeable. Elephants have cool ears. They cuddle and care, and are very clever. Their tusks are teeth used to dig, and to strip bark from trees. They walk on tip toes and travel thousands of miles over their lifetimes. Ways you can demonstrate your love include adopting an elephant, buying paper made from recycled elephant poo, buying fair trade products and never buying anything made of ivory. The illustrations are attractive especially the forest and grassland scenes. Highly recommended as an accessible introduction to elephants and conservation for young children.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Balthazar the Great, Kirsten Sims

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847809490 £11.99

Balthazar the Great is indeed that. A powerful Polar bear with a talent for playing the violin. This thought-provoking story explores themes of isolation, loneliness, belonging, ageism and, on another level, subtly questions the merits of keeping animals in captivity. Balthazar is past his prime and, one day, is set free from the circus where he once performed. He now has to find his place and find his way back home. With illustrations that skilfully capture the melancholic isolation of Balthazar’s journey and his quest to find friendship in a hostile world, the story demonstrates the challenges we all must face when our circumstances change. The interplay between text and picture provides plenty for an adult to share with a child reader and much to discuss and comment on. Large double page spreads through the text with stark landscapes demonstrate the loneliness of the journey and its adversity. Thankfully, Balthazar finds his way home and the ending provides the resolution child readers will be seeking. I loved the interplay between the images and words and how they combined to evoke a real emotional response from the reader. What a relief it ends well. Age range: 1-5.
Isabel Macdonald, Professional Tutor, Institute of Education

A Bear Hug at Bedtime, Jana Novotny Hunter, illustrated by Kay Widdowson

Child’s Play ISBN 9781846439889 £5.99

This delightful, bright and inviting picture book celebrates imaginative play. Gran, wearing an orange striped jumper, becomes a tiger chasing through the jungle garden after the little girl. Her toddler brother plays in the sandpit with her, clad in a green playsuit like a lizard. Best of all is bearded dad who provides a huge bear hug when she has climbed the mountainous stairs to bed. These familiar situations and others in the story will bring a smile to all small children and the book would make a particularly good bedtime story.
Elisabeth Jackson, former Deputy Head of Spratton Hall Pre Prep School

Be Brave Little Penguin, Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parke-Rees

Orchard books  ISBN 9781408338377   £12.99

Fans of Giraffes can’t Dance will also enjoy this delightful, large hardback which tells the story of Pip-Pip the penguin chick who needs the gentle encouragement of his mother to finally jump in the sea and swim. Simple rhyming text accompanies bright, fun illustrations of the characterful penguins in their icy environment. The message reiterates the title in that sometimes with a little trust and bravery, there can be wonderful rewards. This is an excellent choice for a nursery and KS1 audience.

Elisabeth Jackson, former Deputy Head of Spratton Hall Pre Prep School

Big Box Little Box, Caryl Hart, illustrated by Edward Underwood

Bloomsbury Children’s Books ISBN 9781408872769 £6.99

Everyone who owns or knows someone with a cat knows that cats love boxes. Any boxes. It doesn’t matter what shape or size or that they can only get their two front paws in, cats love boxes and this is in essence what this book portrays and who knew there were so many types of boxes for cats to love. Very reminiscent of Dr Seuss books in style Big Box Little Box is, as the title indicates, a catchy repetitive list of boxes illustrated with a curious, loveable, expressive cat trying them out for size. It is easy and enjoyable to read with a jaunty flow and rhyming scan. It begins ‘Big Box, Little box, shoe box, hat box… perfect for a cat box’ and continues in this manner. I think young children will love it, cat lovers will love it and readers aloud will love it. For teachers there are lots of concepts to be explored including colour, size and pattern, and for children there is the delight in that after a few times of having it read aloud to them there is every chance that they will be able to read it alone due to the simple text. Recommended for children 2-6 ish.
Jane Macleod, Primary Teacher, Fairfield Primary, Penarth, Primary Teacher, Fairfield Primary, Penarth

Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade, Greg Gormley, illustrated by Steven Lenton

Orchard books  ISBN 9781408333877  £12.99

Frankie, who loves fairytales, befriends a mermaid at the beach, but both are warned by a wizard that a huge sea monster is around. Fairytale characters, it seems believe what they hear, so the mermaid and wizard are joined by an equally frightened handsome price and a bearded pirate. Only Frankie remains ‘big and brave’, encouraging the
others to be the same. And then the monster arrives! At first sight it certainly appears to be huge and scary, filling a double-page spread with its enormous eyes and black, scaly body. But turn over and we see it is nothing of the sort,
just a rather cute little thing who quickly becomes everyone’s friend. So maybe we are learning here not always to heed the scaremongers; be big and brave and learn to challenge things together – they may turn out to be not as bad as was imagined. Age-range 3 – 6.

Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

Forest Life and Woodland Creatures Practical Facts

Dorling Kindersley  ISBN 9780241273111   £7.99

A charming introduction to the woodland world.  Topics covered include seeds, trees, bugs, animals, plants, insects, bunnies, the forest at night, the seasons and how creatures cope in winter.  The book includes information, photographs and diagrams.  The explanations are clear and well suited to the 3 to 5 age group.  The pages are attractive with a variety of fonts and print sizes.  There are plenty of fun activities for little ones to make, with adult supervision, such as leafy bugs, plate nests, berry ice lollies, a bear mask and a googly eyed pinecone owl.  The book will inspire young children to be curious about woodlands and is highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Hidden World: Forest, Libby Walden, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer-Coleman

360 degrees (the Little Tiger Group) ISBN 9781847157904 £9.99

This is a lift the flap introduction to the world of the woodland. The book offers a range of themed spreads, such as Habitats, Plants, Baby Animals and Insects. There are six flaps in each section that open to reveal attractive illustrations and facts. We learn that squirrels use their bushy tails to help them balance and that racoons often live alone in hollow logs. Geese fly in groups, creating V-shapes through the air, and an ant can lift twenty times its own body weight. The illustrations are charming and informative such as the stages of development of a butterfly and the complex tunnels under molehills. The book is well constructed and robust. It will inspire curiosity and consideration of the forest environment in early readers.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council,

Monster Baby, Sarah Dyer

Otter-Barry Books ISBN 9781910959084  £11.99

Monster Mum is having a baby Dad is pleased, but Little Monster and Scamp the dog are not sure about it. Mum needs to rest and eat healthy food, which means the family has to eat healthy food too. Mum cannot carry Little Monster in her arms as she used to. Little Monster thinks the scan of the baby looks like a wiggly worm. At last Granny comes to stay so Dad can take Mum to hospital. Dad says Little Monster must become BIG monster now the baby is here, and the young Monster asks Scamp if he has grown. When Mum and the baby return home, Little Monsters thinks he is happy, although it seems unfair the he has to play quietly when the baby can make as much noise as he likes. The baby gets lots of visitors and presents, and Little Monster feels a left out. Then baby shows interest in Little Monster. They play together, share toys and the two children bond. The illustrations are delightful, and this is a funny, sensitive story about a child adjusting to a new sibling. Highly recommended.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

My Daddy is a Silly Monkey, Dianne Hofmeyr, illustrated by Carol Thompson

Otter-Barry Books ISBN 9781910959138 £11.99

Another book celebrating all that is good, positive and loving about a father/child relationship. The narrative outlines the daily routine of a father and small daughter when Daddy is in charge. Whether he is a single dad and always in charge or just perhaps very competent in taking a fair share is not explained, nor needs to be. The narrative is over-laid with the small daughter's imaginative interpretation of her father's actions throughout their day, comparing him with appropriate animals: in the morning he is a great big bear, grizzling and grouching and scratching and yawning; cleaning teeth is evocative of a crocodile; the breakfast routine sees a rather unsuccessful multitasking dad as an octopus; at the end of the day, exhausted dad is simply lovely as he and his daughter snuggle up together. The end piece depicts a rather wistful-looking dad, still with the remains of the day's activities about him, and that pair of socks waiting to be picked up and laundered. The text is not set out in a linear fashion, but ducks and dives and weaves around the delightful illustrations for added impact. Alliteration and the occasional rhyme enhance the whole and make for a memorable text that small children will rapidly master and echo. The whole is an excellent evocation from both the adult and child perspective and offers multiple opportunities for young children to explore a very familiar aspect of their world. A worthwhile addition to the EYFS library.
Elizabeth Broad, Former Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton and UKLA National Council

Never Take a Bear to School, Mark Sperring, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Orchard Books ISBN 9781783707959 £6.99

This fun book is a salutary tale for young readers surrounding the perils of bringing a bear to school. The oversized teddy steps on feet, eats everyone’s lunch and growls in class. Its laugh-aloud comedy value will cause much discussion in the KS1 classroom supported by the enticing print-style pictures. The text is the embodiment of young children’s infinite capacity to suspend disbelief… as if you’d take a REAL bear to school! It also paints a fantastic picture of all the activities taking place in an Early Years classroom which children will be able to relate to and this is presented in an artful way – who’d want a bear to spoil all of this fantastic fun! The book ends on the comfortable note of being cosy at home with your bear who will always be there ‘because he’s your bear!’ I particularly enjoyed the predictable rhymes in this book which makes it a great read-aloud for young readers who will be bursting to guess the next word! Age range: 3- 5.
Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol

PAIRS! Underwater, Smriti Prasadam-Halls & Lorna Scobie

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books  ISBN 9781847808820  £6.99

This hardback book is recommended for ages 3+ but even my 2 year old daughter was able to take great delight from its bright and bold illustrations and easy to follow lift-the-flaps activities.  Each page focuses on a particular aquatic animal to find hiding beneath the flaps, and children are invited to explore the shimmering and multi-coloured world beneath the ocean.  It is the simple premise that makes it so effective at engaging children, testing them as it does to identify all the pairs on the pages – but with one trick, there is an odd one out in every set!  The educational aspect goes beyond the matching exercise too – with extensions woven in for counting (can you find five starfish?) and patterns (can you spot 11 stripy stones?).  There is also a description which sits alongside each creature lurking in the depths (‘Turtles have a pretty shell, and flappy flipper feet, as well’) and the rhyming-couplet nature of these introductions make them memorable and great fun – a big plus for younger children who are perhaps exploring factual texts for the first time.  A fun and informative book that is sturdy enough to take the many re-uses that it will inevitably get at home or in the classroom!  Great for themes on ocean life or homes and animals.

Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

Sharks and other Sea Creatures

Dorling Kindersley  ISBN 9780241274385  £7.99

This book is an excellent introduction to the ocean. We explore the undersea world and learn out about sharks, coral fish, rainbow fish, jellyfish, starfish, puffer fish, octopuses and parrotfish. Information is clearly presented in an easily digestible format with questions, did you know boxes, photographs, captions and an octopus maze. There are appealing activities for little ones to make with adult supervision, such as making a shark picture, a jellyfish, a puffer fish and a clownfish, and constructing an ocean in an egg box. The book is an excellent balance of fact and fun, and is highly recommended for children aged 3 – 5.

Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Singing in the Rain, illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Oxford University Press ISBN 9780192746368 £12.99

Singing in the Rain is not a story book to be read to a child; it is a picture book to be shared and experienced with a child. Complete with a CD, this book uses the lyrics of Doris Day’s popular version of Singing in the Rain and is beautifully illustrated to show the joy, wonder, and excitement that rain can bring to children. In an era where children are wrapped up and kept indoors, rain is not celebrated in the way that it perhaps should be. Working in a school, we keep the children indoors when it rains rather than putting a coat and wellington boots on them and sending them out to explore. This book encapsulates the opportunities that rain presents. I would wait for a rainy day to read this book to a class, and would keep the musical element a surprise until the end of the first read as this song would be unknown to most four year olds today. Taking the CD outdoors in the rain would be the perfect opportunity for children to enjoy the rain as they have seen done in the book too. I can’t wait to share this with the Reception teachers in my school. Age range 4+
Jasmine Langdon, Year 2 Teacher, The Meads Infant and Nursery School, Milford Haven.

Spider! Alison Steadman, illustrated by Mark Chambers

Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9781444933499 £12.99

Alison Steadman has written her first book for children. She loves spiders and believes in the importance of teaching children to appreciate and take care of creatures. Mum, Dad, Rafael and the cat hate spiders. Everyone is agitated when a BIG HAIRY SCARY SPIDER appears in the living room. Gradually Rafael gets to know him and learns about the creature. There is much humour in the story which has charming illustrations by Mark Chambers. The endpapers show silhouettes of different types of spiders. There are plenty of spider facts presented throughout the story, such as engineers are studying spider silk to work out how spiders can make it so strong. These interest and inspire children. By the end of the story Rafael, his parents and the cat warm towards the spider. The final page of the book is a House Spider Pledge which children can sign. The book is fun. It entertains and educates, and is highly recommended for children aged 3 to 5
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Stomp School, Jeff Norton, illustrated by Leo Antolini

Caterpillar Books (the Little Tiger Group) ISBN 9781848575882 £6.99

Imagine the children of picture book monsters such as dragons, yetis and dinosaurs. Well, this is a story about what those children get up to at nursery, known as Stomp School. Rikki is a little kaiju (Japanese for strange beast), who is starting nursery for the first time. Familiar feelings of anxiety, frustration and anger are shown, which young children will enjoy recognising. Like many children, Rikki loves building tall towers and, with Miss Bronte’s help, he comes to terms with the fact that most other young beasts also love to knock them down. There are several peek-through holes and pull-out pages in this book for 3 to 6-year-olds, which add to the liveliness of the bold, vibrant illustrations. At the beginning of the book, there are character summaries of the nine little kaiju characters who make an appearance in the story. There is a refreshing disregard for gender stereotypes as the male characters are often the sensitive, daydreaming ones while the females are athletic, thrill-seeking and cheeky.
Emma Andrew, teacher, Law Primary School, North Berwick and SCEL Associate member

Sun, Sam Usher

Templar ISBN 9781783707959 £6.99

This charming picture book has all of the characteristics of a quality early reader. It is a tale taking place on the hottest day of the year – ‘hotter than broccoli soup’ - based around the idea of a trip with Grandad. Its traditionally presented illustrations reinforce the narrative, with more to spot on each reread and are imbued with an appealing timelessness. Persistent repetition of the phrases ‘The sun beat down’ and ‘What about this way, Grandad?’ provide gleeful anticipation of what might come next, the repetition making it a delight, particularly as a read aloud book. When the boy and his Grandad arrive at the picnic spot to find that pirates have beaten them to it well, hey, that’s not a problem, there’s enough food to share! This is Sam Usher’s third title in his seasonal series, following on the heels of Snow and Rain, and promises to be just as successful. Age range: 2–5.
Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol

That is actually MY blanket, Baby, Angie Morgan and Kate Alizadeh

Little Tiger ISBN 9781848696891 £10.99

Large, colourful and enchanting illustrations accompany this story of baby Bella, who loves her blanket so much that it never leaves her side. As she grows, the blanket becomes grubby and paint splattered but still adored. When her new baby brother arrives, he decides that he prefers this old blanket to the new one he is given. Clever Bella devises a plan to show her brother how to make his blanket as exciting, muddy, sparkly and sticky as hers. Using simple language, with large text, the story describes familiar situations which children can relate to. This lovely book will, I am sure, become a favourite.
Elisabeth Jackson, former Deputy Head of Spratton Hall Pre Prep School

Take Ted Instead, Cassandra Webb, illustrated by Amanda Francey

New Frontier Publishing ISBN 9781912 076611 £6.99

This fun book for early readers puts emphasis on the consistent repetition of the ‘e’ sound with each page seeing its young protagonist suggesting that something (with the ‘e’ sound) should go to bed instead of him. The foregrounding of each of these ‘e’ words is done through large, emboldened text and each time rhymes with the boy being referred to as ‘sleepy head’. The repetition at work on each page makes this a fantastic early reader with the book’s clear and engaging illustrations clearly supporting the text on the page. A fantastic resource for emergent readers, who will be heartened by recognising words on a page and repeating them out loud. Age range: 3-6.
Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat, Becky Davies, illustrated by Caroline Attia

Little Tiger  ISBN 9781848695757  £6.99

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat is as it sounds based upon the classic old favourite The Three Little Pigs.  The story is much the same except the cat must revert to modern methods of huffing and puffing by using a hairdryer and a fan to blow down two of the pugs’ poor attempts at house building.  He cannot of course blow down the clever pug’s brick house but there is a twist in the tale at the end which sees the Big Bad Cat with his sharp scratchy claws, terrible twitching tail and his mean moggy eyes get his comeuppance.  Whilst the story probably won’t win any awards the illustrations are what make this stand out from the crowd.  It is a clever mix of pug photography and then brightly coloured illustrations around the photographic images.  Children and pug lovers will probably love it. Once Nursery and Reception age children are sufficiently familiar with the original tale of The Three Little Pigs I think it would be an interesting retelling introduced to year 1/ 2 pupils but I would hate for it to be a child’s first encounter with this timeless classic tale.

Jane Macleod

Under The Same Sky, written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Caterpillar Books (the Little Tiger Group) ISBN 978184857868 £10.99

Under the Same Sky is a beautifully produced book ideal for sharing with Early Years pupils at story time or as the basis for some PSE or class assembly work. It’s message of world unity, shown through animal families and their natural habitats, is appealingly and successfully put across. The idea that we share the same sky, planet, hopes and dreams is explored in ways that even the youngest Nursery children would be able to identify with. The collage-effect artwork is stunning and the peek-through shapes cleverly reflect aspects of the world we all share - a heart, a cloud, a drop of water, the moon or sun, creatures of the air and sea. Fears, joy, games, singing and dreams - all these human emotions are dealt with in ways that are readily identifiable and the book ends, as it should, with a feeling of togetherness. The subtle repetition in the text would make the book suitable for learning by heart and reciting in the Pie Corbett style. A book to enjoy and treasure together.
Helen Cook, retired KS2 teacher at St Illtyd’s Primary School, Llantwit Major

The Very Long Sleep, Polly Noakes

Child’s Play ISBN 9781786281289 £5.99

A quirky tale of the friendship between woodland animals, Bear, Fox, Chipmunk and Marmot. Having shared a fun filled summer together the friends think it would be great to live together all the time so they build themselves a home ‘tall enough, wide enough and snug enough’ for them all. Once cosy in their new home Bear, Marmot and Chipmunk promptly go to sleep and begin their winter hibernation. Unfortunately, Fox is unaware of their instinct to hibernate and tries to wake them up daily, prepares food for them and generally longs for his friends to wake up. Fox gets lonelier and sadder with no one to play with and no one to talk to. As the weeks pass, each creature receives a parcel in the post but there is nothing for fox. All comes good in the end as fox can’t resist peeking in the parcels each one goes off dinging and ringing and donging. Each parcel contains an alarm clock to rouse the animals from their winter slumbers. The animals awaken ready to reaffirm their friendship and begin another spring and summer of fun. The resolution to the story is subtly told in the illustrations as we see an advertisement for housemate wanted outside the animals’ house and fox interviewing a range of woodland creatures on their hibernation habits. The bright colourful illustrations capture the character and expressions in the animals’ faces and add an extra dimension. As well as being enjoyed in its own right, the book could lead to discussion on friendship, hibernation and the different types of animals native to different countries. Age range: 3-7.
Jane Macleod, Primary Teacher, Fairfield Primary, Penarth

What I think about when I think about.....running, Eleanor Levenson, illustrated by Katie O'Hagan

Troika Books  ISBN 9781909991170  £6.99

What do our pets think about? In this companion to the author's first book exploring fishy ponderings, Eleanor Levenson muses on a dog's thoughts as he runs. There are no real surprises here: balls, cats and other dogs figure largely, but there are also one or two deeper thoughts and fears which emerge which could lead to fruitful discussion in an Early Years setting. All these thoughts are delightfully, boldly and humorously illustrated by someone who knows dogs well, so that when he thinks about other dogs, for instance, we are presented with a view of their tail ends only: naturally the first parts to be sniffed at! I really liked the sketchy, scribble outlines and the strong sense of movement she achieved seemingly so effortlessly. The pattern of this narrative would lend itself easily to children creating their own versions for themselves or other pets, orally first and then writing them in Y1. My only query is why the need for the double title and could the paper have been slightly better quality?

Sue Barrett, retired teacher and lecturer

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