Author: Smriti Prasadam-Halls
Illustrator: Tom McLaughlin
Reviewer: Dawn Casey
When a boy from Earth crash lands, a space-boy finds him (‘guess what! I’ve found a real live alien!’). The spaceboy looks after his new found Earth (alien) friend while the alien’s rocket is repaired.
But when the space-boy discovers the alien’s strange ways – he doesn’t like slime-baths, and he can’t moon-walk or solar surf – he decides he doesn’t want to look after him, after all!
Finally, the space-boy apologises and discovers the fun of playing ‘alien’ games like pirates, dinosaurs and rock guitars. And he realises that the boy is not an ‘alien’ after all but a friend.
A colourful story about the true meaning of friendship and differences.
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Illustrator: Ingrid Nyman
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Reviewer: Gwen Grant
This special edition of the first version of Pippi Longstocking, published in 1947, is a book which will delight any child’s heart because here is Pippi, super-strong, super-rich, super-independent, living life just as she wants with no-one to tell her 'No'.
Pippi lives on her own with her little monkey, Mr Nilsson, and her horse, but no Mum and Dad. She can cook, bake, carry her horse over her head, sweep chimneys and do everything in a circus that the circus performers can do, only Pippi does it better.
What joy then when Pippi goes to live in the house called Villa Villekulla next door to dear little, nice, well-mannered children, Tommy and Annika, as the story tells us. The day Pippi moves in is the day the children’s lives change.
The story opens with Tommy and Annika playing a gentle game of croquet in their yard but at Pippi’s exciting birthday party, it ends with the children playing a a wild, hilarious game called ‘Don’t touch the floor’ in Pippi Longstockings’s kitchen.
In Do You Know Pippi Longstocking? Pippi sleeps upside-down in her bed, lies on the table and eats her food off a chair, chops wood with a wickedly sharp axe, and makes two burglars cry as they try to steal her gold coins but then gives them a gold coin each because she’s kind.
The illustrations are fabulous in their bright, colourful detail with lots to look at. Childhood inevitably means constantly being told what to do, often against a child’s personal wishes, but with her strength and independence, Pippi Longstocking is every child’s heroine – and mine!
This is a book to love.
Written by: Mark Sperring
Illustrated by: Layn Marlow
Published by: Oxford University Press
Reviewed by: Diana Barnes
A boy leans over a boat with his fishing net – who will keep the boy safe? 'I will' says his mother, holding him tight around the waist, 'I will hold him close, and never let him lean too far.'
But who will keep them both safe? The captain of the boat will steer the boat and keep watch.
But who will keep the boat safe? This time it’s a star, guiding the boat through the storm, back to the harbour and Daddy. And the boy promises to keep the star safe – 'I will lean out of the window (but not too far) and catch you if you fall.'
Layn Marlow’s illustrations will be well-known to many readers, particularly her delightful Hurry Up and Slow Down and The Witch with a Twitch, and the illustrations are certainly up to her usual high standard, but Mark Sperring’s story begs a lot of questions.
What happens then, to children who are killed or injured, and to the many boats that don’t make it into harbour? Particularly as, at the time of writing this, children may be seeing news about migrants of all ages attempting to cross the sea in dinghies and leaky ferries to reach Europe and not necessarily making it? Did they not have a caring mother, or a star?
It’s a lovely concept, this protection, but whimsical: not everyone can be kept safe, and also, a real falling star is not going to be caught in a little red fishing net, even if it fell in the right place.
Not all stories have to be literally true, of course, and this may work with very small children in need of reassurance, but it’s not for the discerning child.
Written by: Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by: Tony Ross
Published by: Andersen Press
Reviewed by: Mélanie McGilloway
From the dynamic duo responsible for some of the most successful picture books of the last decade comes the story of Bug Slug, a little slug who is longing for a hug from his mum and cannot understand why she won’t deliver. When he seeks advice from other animals, they come up with various, and gradually more outrageous, solutions to make him more attractive and tempt his mum to change her mind. But will she?
The success of Willis and Ross’ collaborations is undoubtedly thanks to how fantastically well Willis’ exuberant rhyming texts and Ross’ zany artwork work together, and this is again the case with Slug Needs a Hug. The energetic text begs to be read aloud, and the artwork manages to convey the comical and increasingly ridiculous situation and attire, while still conjuring instant compassion for bug slug from readers. At the heart of this fun tale lies a cautionary tale, a message that one should never need to change to be loved, and that love can indeed be expressed in many ways. This is delivered in a fun, madcap way, yet with much subtlety and no preaching, which is by far best way to make a lasting impression on its readers.
Definitely a read that will be much loved both at home and at school, with obvious PSHE links.
Written & Illustrated by: Kim Geyer
Published by: Andersen Press
Reviewed by Anita Loughrey
Every child wants a pet – right? Wouldn’t it be great to have someone to play with, someone to share things with, and someone to care for? When Max gets the dog of his dreams, he soon finds out looking after a puppy isn’t as easy as it looks! How on earth can he persuade mischievous Monty to go to sleep?
A charming and funny picture book debut about the trials and tribulations of owning a boisterous puppy!
This is a heart-warming story that anyone who has had a puppy can identify with. Max does everything he can to persuade Monty the puppy to settle down to sleep. From an educational point of view, parents will also be able to identify with the story, as parallels can be made to trying to get a restless child to sleep.
This is a good story for reading to the class at the end of the day. The children will love looking at Kim Geyer’s beautiful illustrations and spotting what Monty is up to instead of going to bed.
Written & Illustrated by: Michael Foreman
Published by: Andersen Press
Reviewed by: Victoria Harvey
A passionate, poignant story that sadly reflects our changing world but offers hope and a reminder to everyone of the importance of books, stories, and the sheer power of words and imagination.
Joey, the newspaper boy, is horrified when he learns that the Mayor is planning to knock down The Little Bookshop and build a huge superstore. He peeps into his newspaper bag and calls on ‘Origami Girl’ for her help. Newspapers fly into the air and transform themselves into ‘Origami Girl, Super Hero!’
Origami Girl quickly realises that more help is needed if they are to save The Little Bookshop. Children’s favourites are pulled from the shelves and Origami Girl soon has an army of familiar characters to help her. Children and adults will delight in recognising Peter Pan, the White Rabbit, Toad from Toad Hall, Puss in Boots and many more – including cameo appearances from David McKee’s Elmer and Tony Ross’s Little Princess. The army of paper fly to the Houses of Parliament where they come face to face with the Prime Minister and a houseful of MPs ‘snoring like pigs round a trough’ (Michael’s illustration here is wonderful – guaranteed to make bookshop/library lovers smile). Realising the government is useless, the heroes fly back to The Little Bookshop to confront the Mayor, and the builders with their bulldozers and diggers, with an army that’s been reinforced by even more characters from the Public Library. The Mayor orders the builders to destroy the Origami Army, insisting that ‘they are only made of paper’ but the builders know better and soon the Mayor realises he is beaten.
This book is an uplifting joy to read and is one that should be guaranteed a special place in the hearts, shelves and windows of little bookshops and libraries everywhere.
Written & Illustrated by: Barroux
Published by: Egmont Publishing
Reviewed by: Lauren Radburn
This deceptively simple picture book with barely any words conceals a complex message. Readers are asked to find the elephant, parrot and snake amid a lushly forested scene, and the vibrant palette of colours makes this quite a challenge to begin with.
As we progress through the book, however, the scene becomes gradually more urbanised and the abundant forest becomes ever more squeezed. Eventually finding the wild creatures becomes a doddle as their habitat is severely diminished, until finally, they are wild no more and can only be found in a city zoo.
Reluctant to end on such a negative note, Barroux gives his wild creatures their freedom, as they escape from the zoo and make their way to another island sanctuary. For young readers this may be a happy ending to this game of hide and seek, but the message is made explicit as Barroux outlines his inspiration for the book – a visit to Brazil where he saw Amazon Rainforest being cleared for Soybean production.
Barroux’s illustrations are charming and childlike and will appeal to the youngest of readers, who will enjoy the challenge of finding the animals in each scene, but the more serious overarching message of the book will make young eco-warriors of them too.
Written & Illustrated by: Ellie Sandall
Published by: Hodder Children’s books
Reviewed by: Margaret Pemberton
This amusing and lively story is a chance for young readers to follow the adventures of a group of Lemurs as they climb and eat and play.
It is a journey tale in the same way that We’re going on a Bear Hunt and Rosie’s Walk are, and we know that at some point there will be an event that changes the direction of the story, and in this tale it is the appearance of a crocodile that has an effect.
This is a really energetic and bubbly story with a strong rhyming text that children will soon pick up on and repeat. The illustrations are funny and full of character, with lots of action to make the reader want to follow and turn the pages.
There is repetition with the look of the lemurs, but the illustrator has varied the colour palette and also the perspective of the pages. Sometimes we are up close to a small group, whilst at other times we have a panoramic view of the whole troupe.
One thing that does come across is the sense of family and the way that the animals live and work in a group.
Younger children are going to love this book, both for the cute animals that are portrayed and for the opportunity to act out the actions from the book.
A super addition to the school, nursery or home library that will be a firm favourite for a long time.
Written by: Tania McCartney
Illustrated by: Tina Snerling
Published by: EK (Exisle Publishing)
Reviewed by: Louise Ellis-Barrett
When Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg (a mouthful to say and I can imagine it took some time to come up with so many names!) were born they looked identical, not only that everything that they did was identical. Yes, everything. See them in the pink outfits, on their pink blanket all holding their little bunnies (and don’t forget to spot little dog in the corner doing the same thing!). See how they spill their milk together, sit on their potties together pulling the same faces … eat, sleep, yes it goes on, they really do everything together and I bet you won’t be able to spot any differences (though the background colour does change).
Then one day see how things change, suddenly they want to do things differently and chaos reigns, then Mum and Dad come to the rescue and things go back to normal, but is this really what they want? No! So once again there is change and we see the girls grow up and become very different people only … well I shan’t spoil this wonderful story. The sparse text leaves the reader to closely examine the illustrations which are a pure delight and very funny too. This is a story all about the importance of being yourself, being true to yourself but also about growing up with siblings, be they twins or more (or less). It makes children realise why being YOU is the best you can be. A great story for sharing at home and school and an ideal text for a PSHCE class too.
Written by: Suzi Moore
Illustrated by: Russell Ayto
Published by: Brubaker, Ford and Friends/Templar Publishing
Reviewed by: Gwen Grant
The cover of Whoops! with its black cloud, thunder, lightning and pouring rain promises a dramatic, enthralling read, and the story, told in verse, with spare and witty illustrations, completely fulfils this promise.
Three friends, the dog, the mouse and the cat, have all lost their voices. What to do? Well, they do what everyone does in a magical story like this – listen to the advice of the wise old owl. Bad move!
The owl sends them to the witch in her tumbledown house, sure she will have a spell to give the cat a ‘Meow,’ the dog a ‘Woof,’ and a ‘Squeak,’ for the mouse.
But when the witch casts her spells, the results are surprising, for Whoops! the cat says, ‘Cluck’, the dog says, ‘Quack’, and the little mouse, ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo.’ And that’s only the start. But how funny! And all this is told in rhyming couplets, easy to remember and even easier to say.
The illustrations are glorious – funny and sweet – whilst the double-page spread colours, ranging from a pearly grey to a deep plum to a shining green, are so gorgeous, children will want to put them in their pockets.
Will the witch cast a spell that works? Read this exciting, charming story to find out. For after all, who can resist, ‘There was a crash and a flash and a rumbling sound. And the tumble down house turned round and round.’ Whoops! is like having a favourite sweetie to munch. You want it to go on and on and on.
Written by: Ulf Stark
Illustrated by: Eva Eriksson
Published by: Gecko Press
Reviewed by: Lauren Radburn
Gecko Press have once again discovered a gem of a book and translated it into English for a wider audience. This picture book, which describes a tender father-son relationship, is both funny and thoughtful.
When a little boy’s father offers to show him the universe, they set off at dusk to explore the world. On the way there they move from the hustle and bustle of the town to the quiet, darkness of the country. For the little boy, there is much to wonder at in the smallest creatures – a snail creeping about in the dark and some grasses blowing gently in the breeze. Meanwhile his father is stunned by the beauty of the night sky, marvelling at the myriad stars and naming them for his son, who is awed by their sheer number. Both are lost in a reverie when they are soon brought back down to earth by far more prosaic matters, and the spell is broken for now. Not that this spoils the magic for this little boy, who describes his introduction to the universe as something beautiful and funny – to be remembered for the rest of his life.
This clever story juxtaposes a small child’s innocent view of the simplicity of the world with the vast vision of space his father enjoys, and shows that we can find beauty and wonder in the contrasts of the universe. The text is by turns whimsical and matter-of-fact, with the illustrations describing similar disparities: a snail is exquisitely rendered, while the boy and his father have a cartoonish quality which young readers will find appealing.
Amusing and thought-provoking, this book certainly deserves to be read further afield than its native Sweden where it was first published over fifteen years ago.
Reviewed by: Bridget Carrington
Designed as a salutary tale for those who like to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, this picture book for early years readers illustrates the dangers of trying to outdo our friends. Tottie and Dot live in identical houses side-by-side, and do the same sort of things, eat the same kind of food and live in companionable friendship. One day Tottie decides to paint her house more elaborately and Dot feels she must retaliate with an equally exotic colour scheme. Their schemes become increasingly extreme, from awnings, through goose-feather roofs and flamingos to fairgrounds and circuses. Eventually everything becomes so silly and chaotic Tottie and Dot realise that they must go back to their original friendship rather than trying to outdo each other.
In the first pages the girls are shown side by side on a single page, but as they become rivals, we see each girl on opposing pages, pictorially expressing their growing rivalry. While the book offers what is basically very sound advice for small children, there are some gaps in the story’s logic that are problematic, particularly the event which finally persuades the girls to return to their previous companionship. Near the end a spread appears to show a wave-pool turning into a tsunami, with bits of fairground and circus floating on it, and the following spread confirms this. However once the girls give up their rivalry I can imagine eagle-eyed readers also questioning details, for example their respective houses, which now sport additions that we didn’t see before.
The artistic style is reminiscent of 1950s French illustration, with Tottie shown in an egg-shell blue theme, and Dot in strawberry pink.
There is plenty of movement and things for young readers to spot in the illustrations, but at times it all becomes rather overwhelming and confused.
Feast or Famine? Food and Children’s Literature, papers from the 2013 IBBY UK/NCRCL Conference, edited by Bridget Carrington and Jennifer Harding, is published by Cambridge Scholars Press.
Written by: Adam and Charlotte Guillain
Illustrated by: Lee Wildish
Published by: Egmont
Reviewed by: Victoria Harvey
This fourth instalment in the very popular series sees young George going in search of adventure with a fine pirate crew. Fans of George’s previous adventures – Spaghetti with a Yeti, Marshmallows for Martians, and Doughnuts for a Dragon won’t be disappointed with this latest tale instalment as George makes his bed into a rowing boat and, taking a pizza to eat, sets off on the high seas.
Along the way he sees mermaids, befriends a parrot, escapes from a ‘shiver of sharks’, and gets swallowed by a whale before eventually washing up on a desert island where he finally meets a real pirate crew. To his surprise, the Pirate’s aren’t interested in the pizza he’s brought along but the Captain is thrilled to see that George has found his best hat – recovered from the belly of the whale – and inside it … a treasure map. George’s adventures are far from over.
Adam and Charlotte’s rhyming text is a pleasure to read aloud and it moves the story along very nicely to a twist at the end.
Once again, Lee Wildish has packed every page with bright, detailed artwork that gives children lots to look at and discover with each new reading of the book, making it a real winner.
Readers won’t be disappointed to discover that another adventure with George will be coming later in the year, Socks for Santa.
Written by: Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Illustrated by: Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Published by: Hodder Children's Books
Reviewed by: Diana Barnes
In one of those nice British coastal towns, lovingly illustrated on the end-papers, a row of houses slopes down to the sea, and into one of those houses a new family moves. Shadowy figures are glimpsed in the doorway as the children, under instruction from their mums to invite the new kid to play, hover uncertainly.
Ellie, the new kid, comes out in a grey hooded coat. None of the others has a coat, and someone starts chanting ‘Ellie-in-the-grey-coat’, which soon turns into ‘Ellie elephant’. It all goes quiet, but then Ellie starts to pretend to be an elephant, and proves to be quite entertaining.
The story is told by the kid who makes up all the games – what if Ellie is better at invention than he is? Ellie puts her coat over her shoulders and becomes a super-hero, so the boy gets his coat and follows suit, as do the others. They race around, then fall exhausted, and take off their coats, except for Ellie, who keeps hers on as they pretend to be a train. It no longer matters: they’re all friends. On the back end-paper, there is one more kid peering over the wall…
The kids are delightful – one red-haired; one with gappy teeth, and the storyteller has glasses – and full of character.
This is a good story, well-illustrated, and will be very useful in the infant classroom or the playgroup, encouraging children to talk about moving house, new kids, fitting in, feeling threatened by the talents of others: all sorts of good topics.
Written & Illustrated by: Marc Martin
Published by: Templar Publishing
Reviewed by: Margaret Pemberton
This is a first picture book by the illustrator Marc Martin. It is the story of a forest and what happens to it over a period of centuries and is a message about how we treat the world we live in. We start with the pristine forest and watch as over time it is cut down, towns and cities are built and a man-made landscape takes over. Finally we see the results as pollution changes the climate and we eventually lose the industrial world and over even more centuries nature begins to re-assert itself.
The ecological message is strong and clear from this book, but it also has a message of hope. It says that the natural world is greater than mankind and that it will eventually reclaim what we have destroyed, but only if we are no longer adding to the destruction.
This is a simple book with very few words, but the story comes across with great impact. There is a really interesting use of colour in the book; we start off with tones of green and as the world industrializes we get more bright reds, oranges, blues etc., then we gradually revert back to the green at the end of the book. The use of watercolours really enables the illustrator to create texture and atmosphere on the pages, so that as the world becomes darker and more crowded, so do the illustrations. It is the forested periods, with the world in balance that is shown as a light and peaceful space.
This book should constantly remind us of what we are doing to our world, from the Amazon to all the other threatened forests across the globe. An ideal book for prompting thoughtful discussion.
Written by: JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by: Sydney Smith
Published by: Walker Books
Reviewed by: Francesca Del Mese
Footpath Flowers is a wordless picture book, evocatively bringing to life the world-view of a little girl who collects flowers as gifts. The lives of both the little girl and the recipient are changed by the gifts, and through this the story reveals its message: the beauty in small natural things can be transformative, even in urban environments.
It is difficult to categorise the age bracket this book is aimed towards because it may also appeal to lovers of graphic novels who have children. Footpath Flowers is likely to work on different levels with different readers. As a simple picture book it will appeal to children who cannot yet read but who want to be stimulated by interesting illustrations.
For adults using the book to read with children it can provide numerous storylines: why generosity is important, why flowers are beautiful gifts or how someone can change their environment with proactive means.
Footpath Flowers is a beautiful book that retains its simplicity whilst also conveying a powerful message.
Written & Illustrated by: Anna Wright
Published by: Words & Pictures
Reviewed by: Louise Ellis-Barrett
A Tower of Giraffes – Animal Brunches by Anna Wright is just an absolutely stunning picturebook. I defy any adult not to want to keep this book all to themselves for it really is stunning and almost too good for little hands!
In a unique story and fact book combination, this book creates new words for groups of animals – 'a Tower of Giraffes', 'a Drove of Pigs' and so on, with its intriguing words come intriguing pictures too and it certainly sets the imagination on fire. Sophisticated in its reach yet somehow managing to retain an accessibility this really is a picture fact book that will delight readers of all ages. Illustration by the author, Anna Wright adds beautifully to her words, bringing out much of the subtle humour infusing the book and makes this a stand-out title for the Summer of 2015. In fact adults, once you have read this with the children why not go outdoors and try to spot some of these animals for yourselves. Will you find them do you think and if so where will they be? Perhaps stop to sketch a few for the album or make up some new names for those groups of animals you do see?
How could anyone resist this wonderful book and the hours of fun it will create as well as all the enjoyment it will guarantee?
Written & Illustrated by: Ross Collins
Published by: Nosy Crow
Reviewer: Stephanie Barrett
'We do not make a happy pair, a mouse and bear with just one chair.'
This charming picture book tells the story, in impressive mono-rhyme, of a contented bear who has found an excellent chair in which to sit. A chair belonging to a now-disgruntled mouse. The mouse tries many things to claim back his top-notch chair: a nasty glare, luring him away with a free pear, giving him a scare and a tantrum. SPOILER ALERT: these don’t work. The mouse, eventually, storms off in anger, only to find a very comfortable bed in an igloo, belonging to … yes, you’ve guessed it ... the bear.
The ‘bear/chair/pear’ etc. monorhyme that has been maintained throughout the story gives way on the final page to a new monorhyme: ‘There’s a mouse in my house’. The introduction of this new rhyme begs the question: sequel? I hope so.
The illustrations are charming, the bear
and mouse’s personality coming across exquisitely clearly. The story is
light-hearted and humorous, and the text has lots of potential for entertaining
readings aloud. The emboldening and colouring of the font, together with the
rhyming and punctuation, mean you can’t help but voice aloud the text in your
head even when reading it to yourself.
Overall, this is an endearing book, made to be read aloud and enjoyed by parents and children alike.
Written by: B J Novak
Published by: Puffin
Reviewed by: Louise Ellis-Barrett
This is a brave picture book, having no pictures at all, only words. However the words it has do not really tell a story, they take their reader on a journey into language. They encourage the reader, and those listening to play with language, they make them do silly things and above all else they don’t give them any time to think about what they are doing.
Who needs pictures when the words are big, bold and colourful, when saying them, even to yourself makes you laugh out loud?
This is possibly, as its blurb suggests, the most ridiculous book you will ever read and it certainly has some ridiculous (and very made-up) words on its pages, but this is its joy and this is how it spreads its joy to all who read it. When you read it, and you must, out loud too for everyone to hear, you will find yourself saying the silliest things, making very silly faces and generally making everyone laugh. You have been warned says the blurb, but honestly that won’t make any difference for this book is addictive and you’ll be back time and again to play with the words to your hearts content – go on just try it and you will be hooked!
Written & Illustrated by: Mini Grey
Published by: Jonathan Cape
Reviewed by: Louise Ellis-Barrett
For grown ups the tag line on the front cover will have an immediate appeal ‘To Bravely Go Where No Milk Carton Has Gone Before’ will be a reference they understand, children will love the idea of the god in his space rocket shooting off to who knows where? The end pages are a delight too, open the book to a map of space but here you will find ‘The Breakfast Cluster’, ‘The Pudding Zone’, ‘The Cistern System’ and more besides. Now maybe it is time to get to the story, go on try and drag yourself away for there is a great adventure in store.
Space Dog is ready to go home, he has had a long and tiring mission sorting out problems in the Dairy Quadrant which began with a distress call from the Dairy Cluster, lots of evacuation from the Cistern System before it was time for Space Dog to settle down to a game – pay attention to what it is called please – and just as he is settling down to sleep a distress call comes in from an Astrocat, one of Space Dog’s sworn enemies, what will be done? Of course the best course of action is followed, dog and cat forget their differences and Space Dog comes to the rescue.
Will all be well? Read on to find out and take your time too for as usual Mini Grey has created the most delightful story with the most detailed illustrations all of which add to the telling and embellish the words that we read. This is great book, a fun adventure, and full of wonderful imagery in words and pictures. It is ideal for the older toddler who can understand some of it and the emerging young reader who can stretch their reading skills. Don’t forget to turn to the end pages too to for a ‘Guide to the Rare Life Forms of the Outerspooniverse’!