Up to age 5 [Reception/Foundation] 2016

Are You Sitting Comfortably? Leigh Hodgkinson

Bloomsbury  ISBN 9781408864838  £6.99

This wonderfully nostalgic title harks back to the years of Listen with Mother on the BBC and is so familiar, it features in the Oxford Book of Quotations. Here, Leigh Hodgkinson manages to give it a timeless feel. A small person is hunting for the perfect place to sit and read a book (hurrah!), but it's not an easy task. The chair cannot be ‘buzz-buzzy’, or ‘growly, itchy, fuzzy’. It mustn't be slimy or soggy and cannot be too far. On each collage-effect coloured page, a different chair with a pattern carefully designed to suit the meaning of the text takes centre stage. With each chair, the boy gathers another companion on his search, so that by the end, he comes to value the act of sharing a book anywhere, albeit with such disparate companions as a monster, an alien, a mouse and a bear! The final spread with its upside down text to read is a delight. I loved the premise of the book, the bold, clever designs, the imaginative descriptive language so redolent of small children trying to describe things and the use of calligrams to reinforce the meaning of words such as ‘fuzzy’, ‘cold’ or ‘tree’. The opportunities for children in Reception or Y1 to design their own chairs or favourite reading places, and the conversations they could make up between the characters, make this an ideal text to share. My ‘Bah! Humbug’ moment, however, comes through the liberal scattering of capital letters in the 'wrong' places in the text. It's hard enough teaching this concept to young writers without having it all undermined in the books they read... or does that matter?

Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at CCCU

Degas and the Little Dancer, written & illustrated by Laurence Anholt

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847808141 £6.99

Laurence Anholt’s Artists series of eight celebrates famous artists through true stories about the real children who knew them. The little dancer is Marie van Goethen who dreams of becoming the most famous ballerina in the world. Degas visited her ballet school in Paris where he drew the ballerinas in a variety of everyday practice poses. When her parents can no longer afford to pay lesson fees, Marie accepts Degas’ offer of money if she will pose for him. Marie became the model for his most famous sculpture which is exhibited in the Louvre. Illustrated in the style of Degas and featuring reproductions of the artist’s work this book and others in the series brings art to life and introduces children to the works of other artists, namely Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Monet, Da Vinci, Cezanne and Chagall.
Elisabeth Jackson, former Deputy Head of Spratton Hall Pre Prep School

Dogs and Puppies (Animals and their Babies), Annabelle Lynch

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445148359 £11.99

Who does not enjoy adorable photographs of cute puppies? One of a series of 4, this Book Band level 4 hardback, is a delightful read. Large, bold text simply explains the growth process of puppies of varying breeds, from helpless balls of fluff and fur to maturity with headings such as seeing and hearing, growing teeth and keeping clean. The emphasis is on the beautiful photographs accompanied by two or three sentences. This series would be a wonderful to any Early Years and KS1 library and kittens, owlets and foals are the focus of the other titles.
Elisabeth Jackson, former Deputy Head Of Spratton Hall Pre Prep School

Everybunny Dance, Ellie Sandall

Hodder Children’s Books  ISBN 9781444919868  £11.99

Without wishing to spoil the plot, this charming picture book introduces a gathering of rabbits who just love to dance … and play… and sing and, well, just perform in general while no one is watching. As in all good stories, though, a problem arises and in this case it is a fox-shaped one. The story has a delightful twist in that, while the bunnies are hiding after spotting him, the fox dances and plays the musical instruments earning a hearty applause from the bunnies who have evidently decided that this fox is safe, creep out from their hiding place and subsequently provide an evidently needed set of friends for the ‘lonely fox’ with a ‘tearful eye’. Sandall’s combination of engaging language and bold, colourful illustrations promise to make this a book corner favourite for younger readers. As with all quality picture books, each rereading draws the eye to a different part of the page with the treat of finding something new, ensuring that interest is maintained again and again.

Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol

I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda, written and illustrated by Steve Antony

Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9781444916669 £11,99

This book shows the tangible rewards of patience being a virtue. With few words on the plain background of each double page spread, boldly drawn characters tell the story of Mr. Panda, who is clearly cooking something. A series of animals ask what it is but when Mr Panda tells them they’ll have to wait, they have various reasons for not doing so, all except little penguin, who doesn’t ask but is prepared to wait and see. He is finally rewarded with the most enormous doughnut, covered in multi-coloured sprinkles. A delightful picture book with an obvious message, conveyed in a humorous way. Age range 2 – 6.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

It Starts with a Seed, Laura Knowles, Illustrated by Jennie Webber

words and pictures  ISBN 9781910277171  £12.99

Following a sycamore seed as it transforms from a seedling to a sapling, then a large tree, we embark on a journey through the seasons and the years.  As we watch the tree grow, its branches and roots fill the pages and it is joined by woodland creatures such as owl, rabbits and squirrels.  The fine art and colours of the illustrations are stunning with details which will encourage close observation and hopefully wonderment at the beauty of the natural world.  A short rhyming text accompanies each page, creating a lovely poem which is repeated in total on the final page.  The gold blocking in the title on the front of the hardback presents this as a special book to be treasured, appreciated and revisited many times by readers of all ages.

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

I Will Not wear Pink, Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Otter-Barry books ISBN 9781910959527 £11.99

What a coup for this newly established publishing house - a new book from this winning and vastly experienced mother/daughter team. It bears all their hallmarks: exuberant, playful language, humour, endearing illustrations and it is a joy to read aloud. Plunkett the Pig is thrilled to receive Priscilla's party invitation, but the theme is not to his taste, ‘nothing and no-one will make me wear pink', he protests. There follows a rumbustious rhyming tirade which gathers speed, momentum and complaints against the colour, barring, that is, the one particular shade which is his own! Can Plunkett convince Priscilla that 'au naturel' is best? Might he even find love? Early years will love reading this aloud as a class, as pairs or individuals and Dunbar cleverly ensures they will want to turn the page - and quickly! There are new words to explore: 'gig', 'toff', 'canoodle', 'junket' and rhymes galore to play with. But they will also enjoy the important message about celebrating the individual and being yourself. Plunkett is the great rollicking exponent of this principle and is more than happy to shout it from the rooftops!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at CCCU

The Jackal Who Thought he was a Peacock, Fereshteh Sarlak (based on a fable by Rumi), translated by Azita Rassi, illustrated by Firoozeh Golmohammadi

Tiny Owl ISBN 9781910328132 £12.99

It’s all very well to admire beautiful creatures, but when that admiration turns to envy and jealousy things can begin to go very wrong. So it was with Jackal who was so envious of the beautiful colours of the peacocks he visited every day that he wished to become one; not so he could look just as spectacular but because he believed that his colourful look would mean all the other animals would love and admire him. In his quest for change, he covered himself in paints from the dyers and as the peacock he now resembled, he tried – and failed – to eat peacock food. He tried – and failed – to fly from a tree like a peacock. With kind jackal friends who helped him realise he was fine just as he was, Jackal finally settled into a life as himself. There’s an obvious message in this story which is ideal for philosophy lessons. The imaginative chalk and pastel illustrations complement the story well.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

Knock Knock Dinosaur, Caryl Hart, illustrated by Nick East

Hodder Children’s books  ISBN 9781444928471  £12.99

There seems to be no end to the popularity of dinosaurs, and here they appear in rhyming text as a counting aid. When the boy in the story answers the door to find a delivery, he is confronted with a life-size T-Rex. Then there are two Triceratops. And three Stegosauruses. And so on, right up to ten Pterodactyls. Despite it being great fun to play with this life-size play set, a dreadful mess is created. And then mum is seen coming home. Thankfully, these dinosaurs are good at clearing up so all is restored to normal, and the toys become just that – toy-sized models. The illustrations are bold and colourful and who is to say that T-rex wasn’t bright blue, or Allosauruses shocking pink? A fun counting book with wide appeal. Age-range 2 – 6.

Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

The Koala Who Could, Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field

Orchard Books  ISBN 9781408331644  £6.99

Kevin the Koala isn’t too sure just what he is frightened of.  Whatever it is though, the security of staying put at the top of the tree he is used to, keeps his fears at bay.  Shy and insecure children will identify with this gentle creature, who doesn’t want anything about his little life to change; after all, if we feel safe in our own small world, even minor changes can seem to be a threat.  Only when an industrious woodpecker starts to peck Kevin’s tree in half is he finally forced down to the ground.  Inevitably, he discovers that it isn’t the scary place he imagined and he realises that rather than saying ‘I can’t’ he is now able to say ‘I can’ and enjoy life to the full, along with his friends.  There are numerous books designed to help children face their many and various fears, often of the dark, or monsters, but it is unusual to find one championing the child who feels insecure for no obvious reason, despite this being not uncommon.  Talking about how Kevin overcomes his anxieties could be of great help to many youngsters. Age range 2 – 6.

Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

The Lion Inside, Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field

Orchard Books SBN 9781408331606 £6.99

This is a fantastic book from the creator of the Bright Side lifestyle brand, Rachel Bright, and the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Jim Field. Full of bright, bold and vibrant illustrations, the story follows the journey of a timid and quiet mouse as he tries to make himself heard amongst all the other noises in the African plains. However, we soon learn that not all is as it first appears, as the large and ‘toothsome’ lion that our mouse friend bravely turns to for advice turns out to have very real fears of his own! The Lion Inside deals sensitively with some hard themes about overcoming your fears and learning not to judge others by their appearance. As well as being a humorous and uplifting book for young readers, it would also make a great stimulus for circle time or even some philosophy sessions and could easily be incorporated into work on habitats.
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

Polly and the Puffin, The Stormy Day, Jenny Colgan

Little, Brown Books for Younger Readers ISBN 9780349131924 £5.99

Polly and the Puffin is Jenny Colgan’s first children’s book, published alongside Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery which first introduced adult readers to the main characters of Polly and Neil the Puffin. Polly is our young protagonist and her father is a local fisherman at the seaside town where she lives. This story follows Polly as she tries to keep herself busy whilst waiting anxiously for her father’s safe return on one particularly stormy day at sea. This is a great example of a book which gently introduces young readers to longer writing. There are vibrant and characterful illustrations throughout which follow a colour theme of orange, black and white and which really bring the story to life. The imagery beautifully evokes a blustery and rainy day in a small seaside town, and the relationship between Polly and Neil the Puffin is explored in wonderful detail. It is a lovely example of friendship and loyalty and is depicted very artfully with subtle clues and references which help bridge any gaps left in the absence of a voice for Neil! The relationship between mother and child is thoughtfully depicted as her mother’s worry is clear but she attempts to keep the day as normal as possible. Absence, loss, friendship and the relationship between owner and pet can all be explored. What I particularly loved about the book is the selection of themed activities at the back, and the ‘lighthouse factsheet’ which seamlessly links fiction with fact. There are lots of ideas for follow-on activities for adult and child at home or at school, with ideas for art, design, English and Maths.
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits, Julian Gough & Jim Field

Hodder Children’s Books (www.hodderchildrens.co.uk) ISBN 9781444929317 £9.99

I absolutely loved this book – it is a laugh-out-loud story from page one and the writing and illustration are so wonderfully complimentary that the characters leap to life from the very beginning. It should become a children’s classic and is already much lauded by others well known and admired in the field of children’s literature. Novelist and playwright Julian Gough, who is also a winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, introduces us to Bear and Rabbit who form an unusual and beautiful friendship. Bear wakes up one morning to find that she has had her food stolen – but by whom? As she leaves her cave to investigate, she is faced with a severe snowstorm – the like of which she has never seen because she is usually tucked up hibernating. So, she decides to make the best of the situation whilst thinking about how to get more food – and begins to make a snowman. The character of Bear and her uplifting positivity is wonderfully and humorously in contrast to Rabbit, who we discover later in the story is responsible for the mysterious food theft. Rabbit is brilliantly unsympathetic at first to Bear’s plight, but as they are drawn together by weather and threat (when Wolf makes an appearance) a comradeship and bond develops. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to make children crease with delight and laughter, it is a fantastic ‘next step’ from the traditional picture book and will enthuse all levels to read through to the very end!
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

Sorting and Sets – My First Maths, Jackie Walter

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445149288 £9.99

One of a series about early maths, this book is very clearly presented, in both language and illustrations. Each double-page spread deals with one aspect of the subject, and has bright photographic illustrations accompanying the direct, easily understood text. It is easy to imagine sharing the book with young children, introducing them to the concept of sets, from what a set is in various forms, to intersections using Venn diagrams. As well as showing what a set is, readers are invited to become involved through answering questions about the photographs. Tallying and pictograms are introduced as a way of recording sets. Other books in the series are cover Shape, Counting and Size. A useful series for 3 - 5 year olds.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

Super Stan, Matt Robertson

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408337288 £11.99

Jack finds life hard. His little brother, Super Stan, is amazing and admired by everyone. No one notices Jack. Whatever Jack does, Super Stan does something better that eclipses Jack’s achievement. Jack is tired of always being second best. Jack’s birthday treat is a trip to the zoo. He begs Stan not to spoil it but Stan is too excited to listen. Stan races a cheetah, wrestles a lion, plays with a giraffe and, once again, Jack is forgotten. Suddenly there is a sound, then a scream. Only Jack realises what us upsetting his brother. In the nick of time retrieves Stan’s teddy that has dropped into the bear’s lair. Stan cheers up, and Jack has been the superhero who saved the day. From that day on, Jack and Stan are super brothers. Sibling rivalry is an issue in many families, and this book both entertains and provides opportunities to discuss relationships and empathy. The illustrations are bright, vibrant and fun. The different endpapers in the book reflect the improvement in relationship between the brothers. Highly recommended for ages 3 to 6.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury

There’s a Tiger in the Garden, written and illustrated by Lizzy Stewart

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847808066 £11.99

The rich, Rousseau-like cover invites us in to discover why – or if – there actually is a tiger in the garden at Nora’s Grandma’s house. Despite being surrounded by toys, Nora is bored, and when Grandma suggests she plays in the garden Nora doesn’t fall for the story that there’s a tiger out there, or huge dragonflies, girl-eating plants and a polar bear. But out she goes, grudgingly. Admittedly, she does see some rather large dragonflies, but maybe that’s not such a surprise. And then Jeff, her toy giraffe, is suddenly grabbed by the tendrils of a vicious-looking plant. We feel pretty sure by now that we know better than Nora, and of course she does encounter the polar bear and we spot the gradually emerging tiger before she does. Their polite conversation leaves us wondering about just what is real, and in the end even Grandma doesn’t seem so sure. So when Nora tells her that there’s a mermaid in the bath, who will we believe? It’s refreshing not to have a cut-and-dried explanation, allowing for children’s imaginations to flourish and to leave space for questions to be asked. What a wise Grandma! Ideal for age 3 – 7.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

Tiger in a Tutu, Fabi Santiago

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408336885 £11.99

This hardback book follows the adventures of Max the tiger in Paris, as he dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. The drawings are ‘childlike’ in quality and are evocative of the screen-printing style that Fabi likes using in her work. The colours are bold and vibrant and young children will enjoy the juxtaposition between the large and fierce tiger and the delicate and musical art of dance as he leaps and pirouettes across the pages! The expressions on the characters throughout the story are vividly depicted and readers will delight in interpreting the detail in the background. There is some opportunity to extend learning by identifying more complex language and the use of French words which have been subtly and deftly woven into the text of the story. A lovely tale of courage, friendship and being true to yourself, it could also be used as a stimulus for a PE class of young children!
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

What’s the big idea? Why am I angry? Oscar Brenifier, illustrated by Jacques Després

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445147246 £11.99

Based on the children’s television programmes, this series introduces young children to philosophy by exploring different emotions and ideas through a variety of amusing and familiar situations. Its aims are to promote and develop thinking skills and encourage children to make up their own minds. The subject of anger and how to deal with it and control it, is told with colourful cartoon characters who experience unfairness and rage in others. Useful teacher’s discussion notes are included to help give children the opportunity to express their feelings about the everyday happenings in their lives. Other titles are Why must I go to school?, Why must I do as I am told? and Why am I jealous?
Elisabeth Jackson, former Deputy Head Of Spratton Hall Pre Prep School

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