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BfK Under 5s Pre-School/Nursery/Infant That’s Mine! HHH

Jennifer Northway, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 84780 009 1, £11.99 hbk

This is a warm, reassuring story about the relationship between a little boy and his younger sister. Baby Emma takes up all mum’s time and always wants William’s toys. Initially William is annoyed but he learns that sharing can be fun and that he has a very important job as a big brother.

This is the second stor y about William, following See You Later, Mum and presents a situation that many families will recognise. It’s not a new theme in picture books but it is presented in a positive manner which will provide opportunities for families to talk about the issues covered. The detailed pictures will allow children to spot toys and games they own and to recognise themselves within the story.


with quirky illustrations and witty text. Chloë has learnt a lot from her dad about the use of white on a page and about pictures zinging with humour and clever composition. Additionally, her use of pencilled lines softened with textures coupled with matchstick legs and mouth-less faces, has created a group of fresh and original characters. JNH

The Giant Jam Sandwich HHHHH

John Vernon Lord, verses by Janet Burroway, Red Fox, 32pp, 978 1 849 41344 2, £5.99 pbk

The reissue of a family favourite is always a delight! My, now adult, children fell on this picture book (first published in 1972) with interest, searching for their favourite illustr- ations! The key to its success is the balance between the rhythm of the verse (which is easy on the reader – not always the case!) and the detail of John Vernon Lord’s humorous, highly organized illustrations which demand re-reads and lots of re-exploring.

Four million wasps descend on the village of Itching Down and seem set to stay causing considerable conster- nation and pain. No plan to get rid of them works – it takes the whole village working together to come up with a novel solution. One of the great charms of this book is in the depiction of the characters and following them through the story. No one seems to be too bothered about the plight of the wasps as the plan succeeds and the village can celebrate – such is life! JS

Zoe and Beans: Where is Binky Boo?


Mick Inkpen, ill. Chloë Inkpen, Macmillan, 32pp, 978 0 230 74845 3, £10.99 hbk

When Zoe’s beloved dog Beans steals Molly, her favourite doll, the results are not only frustrating but extremely smelly. Having lost his own toy, Beans won’t play with anything but Molly provoking much aggravation. It’s a battle and the final showdown is a glorious page, filled mostly with doggy-pattern duvet, where Zoe explains to the now rejected doll: ‘You’re too stinky. No offence.’ But it all ends happily when Zoe attempts to beguile Beans into a game with a newly laundered Molly and they stumble upon Beans’ lost toy.

This simple, yet well-told, story deftly explores the tension between conflict, love and almost sibling rivalry which exists between child and pet. It’s a struggle which small children will readily understand, and a resolution which will bring them comfort.

The duo of Mick Inkpen and his daughter Chloë (one which I suspect will have far greater longevity than Zoe and Beans) has worked a magic

in everything she does. This leads to frustration on the dog’s par t and an explosion of ‘copycat!’ accusations. But when Cat disappears for three days, Dog realises it’s better to do things with a friend rather than on your own, so she rushes round to Cat’s, only to find him in bed, covered with spots. Dog ministers to her sickly friend with the result that on the following day she’s caught the same spotty ailment. Now Cat can say, ‘Copycat!’ to Dog and take care of her. This book has a lovely resolution, which will help those frustrated by adoring younger ones.

Visually, original characters with a very modern appeal show an illustrator whose confident line and wash is coolly sophisticated while subtle yet bold colours create an innovative palette. The final, most impor tant recommendation is that the three-year- old on whom I tested this, remembered the title and chose it from a pile.

JNH Rabbit Pie HHH

Penny Ives, Child’s Play, 32pp, 978 1 84643 353 5, £5.99 pbk

A mummy rabbit prepares a ‘Rabbit Pie’ for her little ones at bedtime with a creative blend of bunny ingredients:

‘One game of hide-and-seek One bath Six pairs of pyjamas Six cups of milk One Story A sprinkling of soft kisses.’

As the bunnies romp across the pages, Mummy gets them ready for bed. She then leaves them overnight in a soft warm place, ready to wake in the morning to a fresh carrot breakfast, which combined with the bedtime ingredients, makes sweet rabbit pie.

Whilst young readers may be unused to the concept of recipes and ingredients, the message of loving preparations and fun is quite clear. Warm hues and lively characters are skilfully depicted while the action and comic antics displayed make up a great bedtime read.


Mark Birchall, Child’s Play, 32pp, 978 1 84643 367 2, £5.99 pbk

Sometimes a book is an all round example of what a picture book should be and this is one of them. Tightly written in few words, the language is as fresh as it is spare. Juxtaposed with pictures both strong and explanatory, the situations in which the winsome little characters find themselves offer terrific scope for the illustrator, so there’s a good variety of colours and action. With the central theme of enduring friendship, a smaller cat’s admiration and lack of experience make him copy his bigger doggy friend

20 Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011

Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice


Chris Wormell, Jonathan Cape, 32pp, 978 0 224 08394 2, £10.99 hbk

A wood can be a gloomy, scary place especially if you’re small and furry and lost. So it’s just as well for the six white mice that their frightened squeaks are heard by a scruffy bear who decides to investigate. Thanks to his gift of the gab, he is able to persuade a hunting owl that the six fluffy balls at his feet are snowballs he’s collected, a hungry fox that they are furry pheasant’s missing eggs and a hissing snake that they are windfalls from the white apple trees that grow on the moon.

Chris Wormell’s atmospheric water- colour illustrations of the shadowy beech wood where the yellows of the setting sun give way to the blue shades of the moon, set the scene for this trickster tale which is all the more enjoyable for knowing readers because it is animals with reputations for wisdom, trickery and cunning who are duped. His portrayals of the trio as it dawns upon them that they have been gulled – quizzical puzzlement turning to anger – are especially telling.

JB Ribbit Rabbit HHH

Candace Ryan, ill. Mike Lowery, Bloomsbury, 32pp, 978 1 4088 1441 3, £5.99 pbk

Best friends Bunny and Frog do everything together, ‘RIBBIT RABBIT. RABBIT RIBBIT.’ – drawing ‘DIP IT, DAB IT’, fighting monsters ‘ZIP IT, ZAP IT’ and eating. Inevitably though, there are times when they fall out especially when it comes to sharing. But, a robot without a key is not much fun and nor is a key without a robot as the pair come to realise. Then of course, there is only one solution ‘RIBBIT RABBIT. RIB-BOT RAB-BOT.’

The illustrations fill in the gaps left by the spare text which incorporates alliterative word play using variations on the RIBBIT RABBIT of the title to punctuate the end of each sentence. Mike Lowery’s characters are drawn with a child-like simplicity in a thick pen outline against muted flat colour background. The hand lettered text interestingly, is exclusively in capitals with variants in the thickness and height of the letters. This adds to the home-made feel of the whole book. JB

Mole’s Sunrise HHHH

Jeanne Willis, ill. Sarah Fox-Davies, Walker, 32pp, 978 1 4063 0474 9, £11.99 hbk

Mole cannot see, but wants to share in the beauty of the sunrise. He is able to do this with the sensitive help of Vole and his other friends – Rabbit, Squirrel and Sparrow. The atmospheric illustrations capture the misty loveliness of the early morning in the countr yside. But, right from the beginning of the story, children are

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