A cornucopia of books waiting to draw you into their magical worlds awaits the reader of this page ... cats, pigs, little girls, wolves and even the odd piranha fish there are books set in space, books about magic, colour, working together, believing in fairytales and much more besides. The Picture Book offering from authors, illustrators and publishers grows with every new edition that I compile of Armadillo and children (adults too) are quite literally spoilt for choice as much as I was when selecting which books to ask reviewers to cover!  I think of all those listed on this page there is the inevitable one which is picked as Editor's Choice yet they could all equally fulfill that selection, Goodnight Spaceman is however my choice for the way in which it made the reviewer's son feel so special with its letter from a real astronaut.  Thank you to all those who make all these books so very special for their readers, I hope you enjoy the selection and keep coming back for more!

Will & Nill

Written by: Farhad Hasanasdeh

Translated by: Azita Rossi

Illustrated by: Atieh Markazi

Published by: Tiny Owl Books

Reviewed by: Melanié McGilloway

Meet Will and Nill, two alley cats who have little in common apart from one major thing: being hungry.  While Nill will happily bask in the sun all day despite his belly rumbling, Will is desperate to do something to forget about the empty pit in his stomach.  But laziness can make you lose out on many opportunities, which Nill eventually discovers.  
Will and Nill is a lovely cautionary tale about the nature of cats which can easily be likened to human behaviour also: a little effort can take you a long way, while being idle gets you nowhere. There are many cautionary tales available in picture book format, but this is a translation from a book originally from Iran, bringing a brand new setting to a familiar theme.  

The wonderful warm colours used throughout the book help set the scene beautifully with the visible brush strokes bring a textured feel to the drawings particularly effective.  You can almost feel the heat radiating from the pages, which makes the reader sympathize with the cats’ lethargy.  The longer text might make it suitable for somewhat older audiences who can sit for slightly longer to hear the story but there is plenty in the artwork to entertain younger children too.

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I Will Not Wear Pink

Written by: Joyce Dunbar

Illustrated by: Polly Dunbar

Published by: Otter Barry Books

Reviewed by: Lauren Radburn

Plunkett the pig has had an invitation to Priscilla’s party but is horrified to discover that the theme is pink and that he is required to wear an outfit of pinks so naff “it would make a horse laugh”!

Wearing pink is just not on for this dapper chap who couldn’t be prouder of his own pink skin which is “so divine, so sublime” that he’s not likely to cover it up with an inferior hue.  And rather than waste precious minutes preening over his outfit, this pink porker would much rather spend his time wallowing in that most glorious of gunk – mud!  But will Priscilla agree and enjoy a good roll around in the mud where Plunkett is encouraging everyone to have a ball instead of the fancy party she had planned?

Plunkett certainly has a way with words and he tells this lively story with rhythm, rhyme and a varied vocabulary that will keep anyone reading this aloud on their toes!  You need to take a deep breath before reciting this pacy picture book - the alliterative, tongue twister text demands close attention and will trip you up if you’re not careful.  The sense of movement and speed is enhanced by Polly Dunbar’s illustrations which are sketchy yet substantial and show Plunkett careering across the page on his scooter taking all bystanders with him for the journey. 

Joyce Dunbar had her tongue firmly in her cheek when writing this funny picture book – there are plenty of references which may be lost on younger readers but enjoyed by the adults reading this aloud.  But whether you are five or fifty you are sure to enjoy reading this exhilarating and amusing story together.

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Teddy Took The Train

Written & Illustrated by: Nicki Greenberg

Published by: Allen & Unwin

Reviewed by: Gwen Grant

Teddy Took The Train is a charming lost-and-found story of a little girl, Dot, who leaves her Teddy bear on a train.

All is set for tears and trauma until the kind Station Master at Dot's station where she has so excitedly jumped off comes to the rescue.

When Dot cries that the train has taken Teddy, the Station Master tells her that is not the case.  It is Teddy who has taken the train to a Teddy Bear picnic further down the line.  Reassured, Dot imagines all the lovely things Teddy will be doing but when it is time for tea and he still isn't home, she starts to worry all over again.  After many adventures, Teddy does get back home, taken there by the kind Station Master.

This lovely story is told in verse with friendly rhymes, easy to repeat and easy to remember.  The clickety-clack sound of the train will be especially appealing and the illustrations bringing Dot and Teddy alive to the reader will be carefully examined again and again.

Printed on smooth, silky paper that invites small fingers to touch, with rich colours that draw the reader into the story, look at the golden glow of the train's headlights taking Teddy home, for instance, or at the gorgeous colours of the picnic contrasting so beautifully with the spare illustrations of Teddy getting lost, all make Teddy Took The Train a book to be cherished.

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A Rainbow in My Pocket

Written by: Ali Seidabadi

Translated by: Azita Rossi

Illustrated by: Hada Haddadi

Published by: Tiny Owl Books

Reviewed by: Melanié McGilloway

Can you fit a rainbow in your pocket?  The little girl in this beautifully lyrical Iranian picture book seems to think so.  Of course, real rainbows won’t fit, but all you need to do is to make your dreams so big you can put lots of things inside them: keep a small piece of paper in your pocket and write down all your dreams, your wishes, your wonderings and see the rainbow rise.  Written in poetic form, there is something really quite unusual about this book: it is a philosophical tale, which does not follow a traditional narrative but rather a collection of musings about the world around us, about living in the moment and enjoying things as we catch glimpse of it.  Rather than giving us answers, A Rainbow in My Pocket encourages readers to go and discover their own rainbows.

The artwork consists of mixed media collage using textured paper, cloth as well as other natural materials.  The collages are sparse, allowing for a lot of white space and this uncluttered style really helps to convey the little girl’s desire to live in that moment, and brings a wonderful ambience to a book which focuses on the wonder of the world and nature around us.  An unusual book which will generate a lot of discussion and hopefully encourage creativity and a desire in children to go and create their own rainbows in their pockets.

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The Bad Guys

Written & Illustrated by: Aaron Blabey

Published by: Scholastic Children's Books

Reviewed by: Abby Mellor

It’s fair to say that Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha have a bad reputation.  But, sometimes, even bad guys want a chance to be heroes. Funny, fresh and fabulously ferocious, this book is sure to have you howling with laughter as you join this fearsome foursome on an adventure that could change everything.  Will these notorious baddies manage to change their ways?  Do they even want to?  And, most importantly, will they be able to resist eating everyone?

The Bad Guys is a fantastic book.  Aaron Blabey has taken well known children’s villains, put them in mob suits, and created an action adventure that sits somewhere between a classic fairy tale and Reservoir Dogs.  Despite their array of character flaws, everybody loves a trier and it’s impossible not to root for Mr. Wolf and his gang of unlikely good guys.

Blabey’s black and white illustrations are simply brilliant, ensuring that every page bursts with character and mischief.  Almost comic book in style, the layout of the book is fun and lends itself incredibly well to the humorous text and illustrations.  It also helps to make the book really accessible; I suspect the appealing mixture of accessibility and comedy will make it a hit with even the most reluctant of readers.

I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.

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Mr. Moon Wakes Up

Written & Illustrated by: Jemima Sharpe

Published by: Child’s Play

Reviewed by: Vicky Harvey

This gentle, dreamlike tale tells of Mr Moon, a cat-like creature that always seems to be asleep.  No matter what the little girl in the story does, Mr Moon just won’t wake up and have fun.

“He naps during hide-and-seek, passes out on puzzles, dozes during adventure stories, and never makes polite conversation at tea parties.”

But when the little girl goes to bed, Mr. Moon surprisingly wakes up and leads her on a moonlight adventure.  Together, they climb up and through the leafy branches on the wallpaper and explore a mysterious, magical garden that is populated with peacocks, mermaids, and other magical creatures.  Together, Mr. Moon and the little girl play a huge game of chess, explore a large maze, sit in the branches of a tree to read adventure stories and then go for a row on the river before finally having a tea party and returning home to bed.  When the little girl wakes up in the morning, Mr. Moon is curled up and fast asleep.

The soft pastel colours and gentle text will make this a perfect story to settle down with in bed at the end of the day.

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Kangaroo Kisses

Written by: Nandana Dev Sen

Illustrated by: Pippa Curnick

Published by: Otter Barry Books

Reviewed by: Margaret Pemberton

This is a delightful story of trying to get a young child ready for bed and the imaginative ways that she finds to delay the moment.  Every request that her mother makes, such as ‘brush your hair’, we find the young heroine discovering multiple reasons for doing something different.  All of these activities include a wide range of animals and as we look closely into the pictures we find that they are actually her toys.  Will bedtime eventually arrive and will our young heroine give in to the need for sleep?  We will see.

It is a simple and charming tale told in rhyme.  The text is short, only a few lines per page, but they are very effective and full of humour.  The actually typography is differentiated between the parent’s and the child’s voice and the use of curves in the text lines really adds to the sense of rhyme and movement in the words.  The illustrations themselves are really bright and clear.  They fill the page and I particularly like the way the imaginary creatures are reflected in the toys animals that appear in the scenes at home. 

The scenario is familiar to most parents and grandparents and this will make a great bedtime read, as well as being a good choice to read to small groups at a story time.

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I Wish I Were A Pirate / I Wish I Were A Princess

Written by: Smriti-Prasadam-Halls

Illustrated by: Sarah Ward

Published by: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Reviewed by: Vicky Harvey

These two novelty board books are perfect for little hands to explore and enjoy. Both titles consist of four brightly coloured double-page spreads, a simple rhyming text and a fun movable tab, flap, slider or wheel.

The covers aren’t wasted either as each one has a slider (turn the ship’s wheel and the little pirate waves while the tab on the princess book enables the pony to nod it’s head and move it’s leg as though giving a little bow).

The rhyming text of both books fits nicely and queues the movable pieces making them fun to share.

“If I were a pirate how happy I would be. I’d heave my anchor up and sail away to sea.”

Little fingers can now move the slider to lift and lower the anchor.  Other pirate actions include walking the plank, climbing up to the crow’s nest, and discovering hidden treasure.  The princess changes her dress and crown, gives a royal wave, dance at a royal ball and fill the palace windows with family and friends.

Unlike some novelty books the board pages and the movable items are quite sturdy so should stand many re-reads and library loans as well as being a favourite at home.    

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Remarkably Rexy

Written & Illustrated by: Craig Smith

Published by: Allen & Unwin

Reviewed by:  Anita Loughery

Everybody loves Rex.  He is the most dazzling cat on Serengeti Street. The schoolkids who pass by are always impressed by his moves… until one day, an interloper threatens to take all his attention away.

The beautiful detailed illustrations make the characters come alive in this story about two cats competing for attention.  If you own or simply adore cats this picture book hits the spot.  It also comes with a link to a free audio reading, superbly read by Erick Mitsak.

I loved the wide array of vignettes that portrayed Rexy preparing to greet the children on their way home from school and how Pamela tries to out-cute him.  Additionally I liked the end papers showing Rexy so large, lounging over all the gardens in the street because they belong to him.

Lots for children to explore in every illustration.

A book to treasure and will have the children wanting you to read it over and over again.

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Some Birds

Written by: Matt Spink

Published by: David Fickling Books

Reviewed by: Barbara Band

“Some birds are big, some birds are small, and some birds are just incredibly tall.”

So begins this visually stunning debut book by Matt Spink.

Through simple rhymes, we learn about birds of all shapes and sizes, about their behaviours and quirks, and the book finishes with the message that birds are meant to be free.

It is nice to have a muted stone-coloured background which gives a softer and more calming effect than white, and results in the glowing illustrations leaping from the page.  There is a modern feel to both the pictures and big, bold text. Good use is made of space, and the pictures and words work well together carrying the reader onwards through the book, ensuring that they want to turn each page to discover what delights await them.

This fun book is a pleasure to read aloud; amusing and interactive, it also lends itself to actions and noises making it perfect for younger readers.

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Hooray for Knickers

Written by: Jill Lewis

Illustrated by: Deborah Allwright

Published by: Egmont

Reviewed by: Lauren Radburn

Being a grump means that King Grouchy has no friends and even the palace staff doesn’t like to hang around long enough to hear what he wants.  When he plans to make friends with Prince Jolly he is determined to make it the perfect day, but his staff are so terrified of the grumpy king that they hide from him and can’t hear his instructions.  What ensues is a hilarious game of Chinese whispers as the Royal Butler passes on a list of requirements to the Royal Footman, who yells them on to the Royal Gardener who panics and shouts them on to the Royal Maid.

No wonder what awaits Prince Jolly is a scene of complete chaos as goats in boats cavort with bears in flippers, ponies frolic with hares and chickens and they’re all wearing frilly knickers.  How will King Grumpy react and more importantly what will Prince Jolly think?

There is nothing subtle about this brighter than life picture book with its gate fold page spread of zany animal antics.  The text is great for exploring rhyming words with young readers and they can have fun thinking up their own crazy Chinese whispers to add to the scene.  Jill Lewis and Deborah Allwright are a winning team, combining lively text with detailed, fun-filled illustrations.  Young children will love the title of this funny picture book and appreciate the message that being grumpy won’t help you to make friends!

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Albert’s Tree

Written & Illustrated by: Jenni Desmond

Published by: Walker Books

Reviewed by: Margaret Pemberton

When Bear woke up from his long winter sleep he wanted to go and find his favourite tree and make sure that it was safe after the winter.  It looked the same, felt the same but all of a sudden he heard something different – his tree was crying.  So with the help of some of his friends such as rabbit, caribou and squirrel he tries lots of ways to cheer the tree up.  The final part, where he finds out who has been crying (and why) is at once funny and quite sad.  Thankfully “all’s well that ends well” and bear makes another friend in the process.

This is a truly charming book about not being scared by the unknown and about the nature of friendship. 

The illustrations are beautifully arranged, with everything from grand double-page spreads to small sequences of images full of action and movement.  The colour palette tends towards the blue/green/grey/brown spectrum with a lot of white to give contrast and to hint at the snow still on the ground. 

The text is quite short and there is a lot of humour, which is also reflected in the illustrations, so I am looking forward to reading this with Reception level pupils and maybe year 1, where I think it will be a real winner.

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Written & Illustrated by: Holly Sterling

Published by: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Reviewed by: Abby Mellor

We all know what it’s like when you get hiccups and find yourself doing all manner of things to get rid of them.  This delightful picture book tells the story of Ruby and her puppy, Oscar, who find themselves in exactly that predicament. Together, they try everything from twirl-twirling to tickly-tickles to get rid of them. Will anything work?

The illustrations of Ruby and Oscar depict a charming friendship between the two characters and bring the story to life.  The, award winning, Holly Sterling is very talented; each carefully drawn picture is full of movement and joy.  The colour palette is elegant too, making this a very attractive book indeed.

This book is the first where Sterling has been both author and illustrator.  I was surprised to learn that she actually created it for her final project whilst doing her Masters at Edinburgh College of Art. The prose flows beautifully and phrases like, ‘jumpity-jump’, ‘slurpity-slurp’ and ‘munchy-munched’ make it fun to read aloud. This is a book that cries out for you to get up and join in with the actions.  We ‘stompity-stomped’ and ‘hoppity-hopped’ our way through most of the story.

My son and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ruby and Oscar.

This is a book to treasure.

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Super Stan

Written & Illustrated by: Matt Robertson

Published by: Orchard Children’s Books

Reviewed by: Louise Ellis-Barrett

Jack and Stan are brothers but rather than being like peas in a pod they are complete opposites.  For example Stan can run faster and throw further, jump higher and … fly.  Fly?  Yes, fly.  Stan could fly.  How could Jack possibly live up to a brother who can achieve such a feat?  Jack is ordinary, Stan is simply amazing but of course Jack is tired of being second best, playing second fiddle to his outstanding brother and who wouldn’t be.  As you can well imagine when it comes to a special day for Jack he really wants it to be his day, he wants nothing to spoil his fun for this is his birthday … this book almost needs no words for the series of actions that happen next and Matt Robertson has certainly kept them to a minimum, letting the pictures do the talking for I am sure you can guess what happens!  Soon however we learn that being a superhero may not just be about having super powers but about something more important entirely, I shan’t spoil the story by telling you what happens but I shall reveal that it is very satisfying.

Matt Robertson tells his readers a story with a strong moral message but in such a light and fun way and with such a bright, cheerful and exuberant set of illustrations, sometimes filling the pages, other times breaking them up in comic style strips and at all times catching the readers’ eye and encouraging them to get involved in the story.

An amusing story all about brothers and how sometimes even the greatest superhero needs a helping hand!

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Goodnight Spaceman

Written by: Michelle Robinson

Illustrated by: Nick East

Published by: Puffin Books

Reviewed by: Abby Mellor

Goodnight Spaceman is a lovely picture book.  It tells the story of two young children, playing at being spacemen before they go to bed. With the children, we zoom beyond our world and through the wonders of the Milky-Way.  Before the story begins, there is a letter from Tim Peak which really makes this book special. My son, who is a massive fan of the astronaut, was beyond delighted to be read a message from his hero.

A perfect bedtime story, the simple rhythm and rhymes make this story a pleasure to read aloud.  Nick East has done a brilliant job with the illustrations. Big, bright and colourful, they certainly capture the reader’s imagination as we are caught up in the children’s make-believe space world.  With the topic of space being so prominent in the news at the moment, it’s fantastic to be able to read a book like this and imagine what it would be like to really leave Earth in a rocket ship.

This book is sure to become a firm favourite with your budding spacemen. In his letter, Tim writes that he hopes this book will,

‘inspire a new generation of boys and girls to look up at the stars…’ 

It’s certainly inspired my little astronaut.

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Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

Written by: Jeanne Willis

Illustrated by: Tony Ross

Published by: Andersen Press

Reviewed by: Gwen Grant

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool, the most beautiful girl in the school, has a mission to make everyone else fit her idea of what is beautiful.  So Lucinda sets about changing anything she considers ugly.

A derriere Lucinda thinks too large?  Unplucked eyebrows?  Raggy nails?  Lucinda loudly points them all out.  No wonder everyone hides when they see her coming.  But whether it is her Grandad's moustache or her entire Granny, so terrified by the threat of a make-over she hides behind a chair, Lucinda is not to be stopped.

The day she meets a 'terrible, horrible, hideous beast,' Lucinda is not at all afraid.  She leaps right in.  'Goodness, you're ugly.  You're a mess,' she cries, and sets about primping and preening, shaving and trimming the monster until she says, 'Now you are truly divine and your face is almost as pretty as mine, we can be friends.'  'Are you mad!' says the monster, who is ugly in a way Lucinda cannot change and so, this wonderful, wickedly wise and witty story ends just as it should!

Told in verse with often unexpected and funny rhymes, any child between one and a hundred will want to read this book over and over again.  Tony Ross has drawn characters so full of life and colour, they leap off the page.  There can be no more perfect illustration of a Melinda McCool than the Melinda drawn here.

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool is a joy.

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The River

Written by: Patricia Hegarty

Illustrated by: Hanako Clulow

Published by: Caterpillar Books

Reviewed by: Andrea Rayner

A little fish starts her journey in the snow-capped mountains, then swims downstream to the forest.  She passes many different animals, including snow geese, deer, beavers, an owl and bear cubs on the way.  But she does not stop, she continues her journey, day and night, until she reaches the sea and joins all the other fish.

This is a beautiful picture book, with a lyrical text set out in rhyming couplets. The illustrations are engaging and endearing and have a retrospective feel.  The simple style with its collage-like quality, and geometric shapes is reminiscent of Leo Lionni’s Frederic books and Richard Scarry’s I am a Bunny, both from the 1960s.  The colours are dominated by browns, greens and blues and there is a lovely touch of bronze-gold glitter added to the fish on the last spread.

This is a novelty book which has a circular die-cut hole two-thirds of the way down the page. The hole reveals a holographic fish that changes position when the page is angled to give the reader a sense of movement.  This helps to emphasize the progression of the fish’s journey as it travels from one habitat to the next.

The naturalistic world is beautifully portrayed by the illustrator and has a graphic quality.  There is a strong sense of pattern in the various naturalistic elements, such as rocks, bubbles, trees, and leaves, of each illustration.  There is also a strong feeling of harmony between the animals and their various habitats, but, the animals portrayed are representative of a North American rather than British or perhaps even European environment.  However, this enhances rather than detracts from a beautiful and unusual book.

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All Aboard for the Bobo Road

Written by: Stephen Davies

Illustrated by: Christopher Corr

Published by: Andersen Press

Reviewed by: Anja Stobbard

Join Fatima and Galo as they help load up the bus with luggage for a very colourful journey.

“All aboard for the Bobo Road!” Big Ali booms.

Big Ali is Fatima and Galo’s dad so this is an extra special treat for them.  At each stop they help to count on bikes, cans of cooking oil and rice.  There is more to come and soon they are squeezing on watermelons, goats and chickens too as the bus travels past hippo lake, the Domes of Fabedougou, and the deep, dark forest of Mou until eventually they arrive at Bobo station.  What a ride, and the children helped everyone so they deserve a special present too.

As well as being a lovely book to count with and enjoy colours it is also a reflection of the author’s own life experience in Burkina Faso.  A lovely way to introduce little children to another vibrant culture.

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Mortimer’s Picnic

Written & Illustrated by: Nick Ward

Illustrated by:

Published by: Troika Books

Reviewed by: Andrea Rayner

Mortimer rabbit is preparing to go on a picnic with his friend Oggy when he receives a note telling him that Oggy is unwell.  So Mortimer decides to take the picnic to Oggy’s house, together with a book, a get-well card and some medicine, in order to cheer Oggy up.

However, on the way, he meets a crocodile who eats the sausages from Mortimer’s hamper in return for carrying him across the river.  After Mortimer has crossed the river, the crocodile is still hungry, and follows him.

Next Mortimer meets a wolf who shows him the way out of the forest in return for Mortimer’s cake.  But the wolf decides he is still hungry and so Mortimer now has a wolf and a crocodile following him.

Finally, Mortimer meets a mountain troll who won’t let him cross the bridge unless he is given the pumpkin pie. After Mortimer has crossed the bridge, mountain troll snatches the pumpkin pie and eats it.

Now, the mountain troll, wolf and crocodile decide that they want to eat Mortimer and start chasing him.  Suddenly, a large green hand comes down from the sky and picks Mortimer up! It is a giant ogre!  It is also Mortimer’s friend Oggy.  Oggy takes Mortimer home and looks after him as he is now going down with a cold.

This is a delightful story that cleverly uses elements from various fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Billy Goats Gruff to create a gently subversive humorous tale which has the final reversal of the giant ogre being Mortimer’s rescuer and his friend.

The humorous text is complemented by lively illustrations, and a sense of mystery and mischievousness pervades this delightful picture book, leaving the reader/listener never quite knowing what will happen next.

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Tiny Cops and Robbers

Written & Illustrated by: Joel Stewart

Published by: Orchard Children’s Books

Reviewed by: Barbara Band

This is a story told by Big Ted, who lives with Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Baby Jack. They are a big happy family but they have one problem, Tiny Robbers who sneak through the house stealing items such as socks and glasses, and even, at one point, Big Ted himself whilst Baby Jack is asleep!  Only Ted, Baby Jack and the dog can see them but luckily the Tiny Cops are around to foil their plans.  These small characters include various creatures such as mice, beetles and worms, and they all have amusing names.

This book is filled with action and detail, making good use of the pages by combining full-page spreads with smaller pictures, creating a busy format that could be slightly confusing for very young children.  However, for older toddlers aged 3 – 5 years, there is a lot to observe and talk about.  It is a fun, mischievous tale with the illustrations complementing the text adding lots of humour to the activities of these borrower-like creatures.  Speech bubbles provide further hilarity.

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There’s a Tiger in the Garden

Written & Illustrated by: Lizzy Stewart

Published by: Frances Lincoln

Reviewed by: Bridget Carrington

Small children have vivid imaginations, and picture-book writers and illustrators have always used this as a wonderful excuse to produce some entertaining, vivid, often surreal but ultimately reassuring works. 

Lizzy Stewart is new to children’s books, but well-known elsewhere for her folksy, offbeat style, and love of including pictorial clues to all kinds of connections with the subjects she is illustrating. 

In many ways There’s a Tiger in the Garden will remind adults (and well-read/read-to children) of favourite books from the 1960s like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, naughty Max’s dream-like retaliation for his punishment, to The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr’s classic story of the chaos a very demanding visitor can create in the kitchen. 

Stewart’s tale is a familiar one – a bored child, Nora, is left for the day at Grandma’s, and complains that there’s nothing new or different to do there. Grandma, however, tells her that she’s sure she’s seen a tiger in the garden, as well as enormous dragonflies, people-eating bushes, and a grumpy polar bear. Nora doesn’t believe any of this, although when she wanders outside she is a little surprised by some of the things that happen, and the things she sees. Avoiding the bird-size dragonflies, she has to wrestle her toy giraffe from the grip of some fierce bushes, only to come across a bored polar bear who is fed up with everyone ignoring him as they search for the tiger. And when she finds the tiger, and then tells Grandma all about her adventures, she’s told it might just be a ginger cat. 

Nora has the last word, which will satisfy young readers, who are well used to being told they’re mistaken! 

Stewart’s slightly dreamy, colourful pages are covered in detail for readers to explore, with garden backgrounds which morph into polar lands or jungles, and Nora’s face showing us a myriad of expressions, from cross to surprised to delighted, and everything between. 

The front of the hardback is slightly textured, so that we can feel the outline of some of the amazing things we’ll discover in the text.

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The Great Dragon Bake Off

Written & Illustrated by: Nicola O'Byrne

Published by: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Reviewed by: Louise Ellis-Barrett

With puns a plenty featuring notable names from the world of cookery - Flamie Oliver being the main character - this whimsical, irreverent and very funny story takes us into the kitchen of a very unusual dragon!

Flamie looks as if he is and should be a very ferocious dragon indeed but he has a secret, behind closed doors Flamie is a masterchef.  He loves nothing more than to bake.  Give him some choux pastry or even some puff (pastry that is) and Flamie is in his element but the problem is the cooking is getting in the way of his studies and he may not be able to graduate from the Ferocious Dragon Academy for all he can think about is food.  He does the right thing - he kidnaps a princess but then all he can think about is what to bake to go nicely with her!  Is there any chance that he can learn ferocity or is all lost?  What will his showstopper move be? It is going to need to be spectacular that is for certain...

There is plenty of text in this charming picture book making it perfect for slightly older readers or parents sharing with young children.  There is also a very important message about following your heart and passions which teachers may wish to make use of in a classroom setting.  Add to this the brilliantly drawn and expressive dragons and there is a recipe for success sitting in the pages of this book.

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