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reviews Maisy’s Show

Lucy Cousins, paper engineering by David Hawcock, Walker, 14pp, 978 1 4063 2385 6, £12.99 novelty hbk

Under 5s Pre-School/Nursery/Infant Editor’s


There’s not too much to say about Maisy that hasn’t been said already by sales of 21 million of more than 20 titles in 29 languages. She comes in flat books, lift-the-flaps, pull-the-tabs, pop-ups, DVDs, TV series and sundry merchandise. All those 3+-year-olds can’t be wrong.

Here she is again, this time in a ‘Pop- up and Play Book’, rehearsing a show – in her 20th bir thday year – starring the usual crowd. Maisy tip-tap-dances across the page when you pull the tab, Eddie the Elephant flaps his ears and flips a ball, Charley the Crocodile does a mid-air somersault, Cyril Squirrel does a disappearing trick leaving nothing behind but his wizard’s cap, and Tallulah the Little Chicken twirls and whirls around a glittery mirror in her tutu. Finally, a stage comes thrusting off the page and the curtains are drawn back to reveal the entire company doing their respective things.

devices are made to withstand repeated tweaks from very young fingers – it’s a book for children to love and own for themselves.

The paper engineering matches the strong and simple colours of the illustrations and the directness of the prose. We are not in the realms of the coffee-table delights (and vulner- abilities) of a Sabuda or the sudden surprises of a Pie´

nkowski. These GF

Choice Up and Down


Oliver Jeffers, HarperCollins, 40pp, 978 0 00 726384 4, £10.99 hbk

The boy and his friend the penguin (who first appeared in Jeffers’ extraordinary debut picture book, Lost and Found) ‘always did everything together’. We see them involved in a pretend game, making music and playing backgammon. But one day the penguin wants to do something important by himself – he has wings and he wants to fly. The boy tries to help him realise his

Indeed I do. You are my splendid friend,’ Bear melts and admits that Goose is also his splendid friend. It is the ‘splendid’ illustrations that really make this book. The large white polar bear and the cheekily intrusive goose are full of life, and the heavenly blue background manages to reflect both the bear’s grumpiness and goose’s flighty self-assuredness. Goose’s facial expressions make him lovable in spite of his bumptiousness. Parents will recognise and enjoy the desire to have time to oneself in spite of demanding little ones.


ambition but nothing works. On their way to ask for help, the penguin spots a poster asking for a living cannon ball and is so excited he rushes off without the boy. How the friends are reunited is touchingly told and young readers will understand the implicit moral – a good friendship is one that allows each individual the space to follow their own dream.

As ever, Jeffers’ minimalist style is deeply expressive with emotion conveyed by the placing of figures in relation to each other or against wide white space. Shadows serve to convey the passage of time or to anchor characters on the page. The now quartet of boy and penguin stories (the other two titles are How to Catch a Star and The Way Back Home) explore aspects of friendship in stories that are perfectly pitched at young readers.


be pushed on the swing, but Pearl can swing herself. Pearl begins to feel that being a big girl is quite a good thing, and at the end of a thoroughly happy but exhausting day, she says goodbye to the bear with sticky paws and draws a nice picture for her little brother. This is a different take on the usual child-with-new-sibling-jealousy story. Pearl works out for herself (with the bear’s help) that being an older sister has its advantages, and the rollicking adventures she shares with the bear give us reason to believe that Pearl and her little brother will soon be able to share good times too. The illustrations are outstanding. Lots of white space on the pages gives plenty of room for the antics, and the details, from wallpaper to scribbles to a lovely marmalade cat who shares in the fun, are brilliant. A happy book to share with all the family.


The Three Billy Goats Fluff HHHH

Rachael Mortimer, ill. Liz Pichon, Hodder, 32pp, 978 0 340 98990 6, £10.99 hbk

The Bear with Sticky Paws and the New Baby

A Splendid Friend, Indeed HHHH

Suzanne Bloom, Alanna Books, 32pp, 978 0 9551998 9 9, £6.99 pbk

Goose is terribly sure of himself. In his bumbling, insensitive way, he comes upon Bear, who is reading. As such people do, Goose takes over the book and the reading, and then he wants to show Bear his writing too. Bear gets crosser and crosser, but when Goose goes to get a snack and returns with a note for Bear saying, ‘I like you.


Clara Vulliamy, Orchard, 32pp, 978 1 40830 065 7, £5.99 pbk

Pearl has a new baby brother, and she is not pleased when he uses her highchair: ‘I’m still very small,’ she says. In fact, she decides to play at being a baby, and her game is enhanced by the arrival at the door of a white, fluffy bear who wants to play baby bears. Together they do all sorts of baby things. The bear uses his paws to eat, but Pearl uses a spoon; the bear must be helped to dress, but Pearl can dress herself; the bear must

Re-workings of traditional tales can be irritating but Rachael Mortimer’s lively text takes the story line of Billy Goats Gruff to a whole new level of sheer absurdity that works for both adults and children. Mr Troll has moved to a new house underneath a bridge across which the goats of course trip-trap noisily. Mortimer’s allusions to real estate may pass over the heads of child readers but I suspect most children will be charmed by the portentous language and format of the estate agent’s adver tisement and demand to know more! Different sizes of text fairly gallop the story along and will evoke an interest in new vocabulary.

Liz Pichon’s zany illustrations spin the yarn fur ther still with touches of humour and will amuse the reader even after what I suspect will be many

George and Ghost HHHH

Catriona Hoy, ill. Cassia Thomas, Hodder, 32pp, 978 0 340 98885 5, £10.99 hbk

Many children find companionship in an imaginary friend. They can come in all shapes and sizes. George’s friend is Ghost. But George is no longer sure that Ghost is real. This is a beautifully thought out story perfectly comple- mented by Cassia Thomas’s lively illustrations. Hoy manages to weave complicated concepts through the text related to the things that we all take for granted yet often cannot see or touch such as emotions or thoughts. The illustrations capture the relationship between the friends and give young readers the visual cues required to cement these ideas. VRe

readings. This book works as a appealing stand-alone especially with Mother Goat’s innovative way of preserving Mr Troll’s sleep and sanity so that all is resolved fluffily and happily. I would, though, make a plea that children are offered the hard- edged vigour and excitement of the original tale too!



Karin Littlewood, Gullane, 32pp, 978 1 86233 803 6, £10.99 hbk

A lonely Inuit girl fishing through a hole in the ice hooks not a fish but a tiny, colourful wooden bird which she ties to her necklace. The following

Books for Keeps No.186 January 2011 21

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