BfK 5–8 Infant/Junior Batty HHH
Sarah Dyer, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 84780 159 3, £6.99 pbk
Batty the long eared bat spends his time hanging upside down at the zoo largely ignored by visitors. His efforts to emulate the penguins, gorillas, lions and other zoo animals do not attract the attention he longs for. When he finally returns to his own inverted position however, a pleasant surprise awaits him.
Sarah Dyer’s humorously distinctive pencil and pastel illustrations show much of the action from Batty’s upside down perspective so birds appear to perch on the underside of branches, lions to snooze on the underside of ceilings and penguins to plunge upwards into their pool. Signs, notices and bird calls provide added wit and interest to the quirky pictures which themselves require a degree of sophistication to interpret.
concept on each page. As we move through this intriguing world of counting, the malleable clown bird assumes the shape of the different numbers. He twists into a ‘two’ shape and elongates into a ‘three’, tucks into a ‘four’, ‘five’ and ‘six’. Seven finds him bowing with some surrealist companions and eight finds him rotund to accommodate so many numbers. At nine weariness sets in and by the time ten is reached – well there’s ‘so much to count’. He’s exhausted in spite of the help of a solid looking hippo, a fairytale mouse and some obliging finger puppets.
This is a book many children will adore, but its unusual approach may appeal less to others. I have to admit that some of the people and creatures pictured look rather bizarre – frightening perhaps to some young children. But it is after all a circus theme and we can hardly be surprised by some strange faces and antics. Buy this for an imaginative child and for anyone fascinated by number. MM
Little Red Hood HHHH
Marjolaine Leray, trans. Sarah Ardizzone, Phoenix Yard Books, 40pp, 978 1 907912 00 9, £7.99 hbk
Red Riding Hood continues to fascinate and engage us and new versions abound from the recent US fantasy film (Red Riding Hood) just released to new children’s publisher, Phoenix Yard Books’ Little Red Hood, an elegant small format landscape picture book.
Number Circus: 1–10 and back again!
Kveta Pacovska, Michael Neugebauer, 28pp, 978 988 19152 9 0, £16.99 hbk
There are so many books on counting and the concept of number that a new title has to be rather special to stand out. And this book is and it does! Quirky, teasing and ingenious – it can cer tainly claim considerable originality. By building the book round the conceit of a circus there is a lot of potential for playfulness. There is a mirror to peer into, copious flaps to lift and doors to open. Use of intense colours throughout adds to the book’s power and sheer exuberance. We are introduced to the intriguing, flexible clown bird at the start where he shows the oneness of one. Yes – it’s almost platonic in concept. He is helped by the strip of ‘ones’ repeated across the top of the double spread, a bold numeral and the single bounded circle at the foot of the page. The bold numerals and bounded circles pop up throughout to clinch the number
Marjolaine Leray studied at the Ecole Duperré in Paris and her graphic style is consummately French with its scribbly pencil line and bold minimal- ism against a white background. Her assertive dashes of grey (the wolf) or red (guess who) convey menace, confusion, embarrassment, confidence, guile as the two characters interact and the tables turn to Little Red Hood’s advantage. Ardizzone’s well pitched translation acts as a counterpoint to the story. Stylish fun that will stretch young readers’ understanding of visual narrative. RS
Runaway Duckling HHH
978 1 4440 0195 2 Where Are My Lambs?
HHH 978 1 4440 0196 9
Francesca Simon, ill. Emily Bolam, Orion, 64pp, £4.99 each pbk
These are two Early Reader stories from the ‘Potter’s Barn’ series. They will provide children with reading practice, with plenty of clues and jokes in the accompanying illustrations. The repetitive text provides lots of oppor tunities for ‘joining-in’ and makes them per fect for sharing on a one to one or group basis.
DF 22 Books for Keeps No.188 May 2011
Space School: Blast Off! 978 1 4081 2379 9
Space School: Crash Course 978 1 4081 2377 5
Tom and Tony Bradman, ill. Si Clark, A & C Black, 64pp, £4.99 each pbk
These two books form part of a mini- series of four short science fiction novels. Luke and his friends Yuri and Yasmin are aboard the spaceship Buzz Aldrin, having left a polluted earth in search of another planet to call home. The stories are a mix of science fiction adventure and children facing the normal everyday problems of falling grades, boredom and, in Luke’s case, being the son of a stressed out captain. The characters are likeable and some characterisation builds up over the series. The authors capture the genre quite well and there is very little else available at this level for lovers of science fiction.
DF Claude in the City HHH
Alex T Smith, Hodder, 96pp, 978 0 340 99899 1, £4.99 pbk
Claude is a small dog who lives with Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes and his best friend Sir Bobblysock. When Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes go out for the day, they tell him to be a good boy and that they will be back soon. At which point, Claude decides what he will do for the day. How about a visit to the City with Sir Bobblysock? A trip to the city it is, which includes a meal, shopping and a visit to the art gallery where the intrepid pair foil a robbery and arrive home just in time. The second adventure involves going to the hospital along with a few remedies that are slightly less than orthodox. The expressions of well intentioned innocence on the faces of our heroes, not to mention the faces of the people they meet, showcase Smith’s comic talent not just for writing a good story but also illustrating it in a fitting but hilarious style. I’d recommend this book not only for the Key Stage One classroom, but also for reading aloud to younger children and sharing many a laugh...
RL The Kitten with no Name HHH
Vivian French, ill. Selina Young, Orion, 96pp, 978 1 4440 0078 8, £4.99 pbk
This is a new Early Reader edition of a story first published in 2009. At over 90 pages it is quite long for an early reader, but the text is well broken up with full colour illustrations on every page. Many children will enjoy this warm and reassuring story of kitten’s search for a home and a name.
A Walk in London INFORMATION PICTURE BOOK
Salvatore Rubbino, Walker, 32pp, 978 1 4063 2068 8, £12.99 hbk
This is a simply wonderful introduction for children to one of the world’s most vibrant cities. The large format makes for some dramatic double spreads of iconic landmarks, for example of Westminster, St James’s Park, the Changing of the Guard, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. Then, near the end, flaps are opened to reveal a panorama of the journey.
The journey through the capital by bus and by foot of a young girl and her mother is shown in dynamic and colour ful pictures conveying the flavour and character of the city. We have the broad sweep of the urban and river landscapes, but also the detail that makes the day so interesting: the woman scrutinising a map of London, the people perched on the lions in Trafalgar Square, the baby in the pushchair fascinated by the jugglers in Covent Garden, and the man escaping into a telephone box to avoid the rain. There is so much to absorb and talk about and this would be a splendid book to read before a London visit or to savour the experiences afterwards. It would also be a good starting point for learning about the histor y of London, for example about the role of the Bank of England. This would be an excellent addition to the school library or make a welcome gift.
RHS How Does My Garden Grow?
Dorling Kindersley, 80pp, 978 1 40536 262 7, £9.99 hbk
Here is a Royal Hoticultural Society backed activity book with lots of do- able ideas for garden-related crafts and activities. There are accessible science bits, clear explanations of plant physiology and plant needs and a helpful glossary and index.
The basic assertion is that kids can grow plants anywhere and do not need fruitful acres. Potatoes in sacks, ponds in tubs, carrots in bags, herbs in fruit juice containers are the order of the day. Then there is the fun side of recipes for making the likes of pepper hummus and potato and carrot crisps or creating your own sweetcorn paper, topiary or loofah.
The bright, intelligent presentation and double page spread format is what we’ve come to expect from the best information books and DK have not let us down here. Get a copy in for the next growing season and plunder all the good ideas to turn kids on to their food and their environment. There’s fun and razzle-dazzle to be had in growing and seeding!
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