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BfK Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant Freight Train HHHHH

Donald Crews, Phoenix Yard, 24pp, 978 1 9079 1204 7, £10.99 hbk

First published in 1978, this now classic US picture book (a Caldecott Honor book) pays homage via its subject to the Futurist movement of the early 20th century that celebrated the creation of machines as well as drawing upon the influence of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s.

of the body, household objects and emotions. But, best of all, child and sharing adult can weave stories round the pictures. For example on one page the same dressed animals are shown fighting, then dancing to music on the radio and finally kissing and making up.

The small, busy drawings are reminiscent of those in Richard Scarry’s books, but have their own style and humorous appeal. The pages have a dynamic ‘feel’ and children will chat about activities like painting a fence brown, reading a picture book in bed and rituals like cleaning teeth. They will recognise modern artefacts like a laptop, CD player and stereo as well as the traditional items that still surround us - books, magazines, pencils and notebooks.

This is a hugely enjoyable and imagination expanding book which will enable young children to talk about all the things in their world and their feelings about them.


Landscape format, Freight Train introduces a quite diagrammatic train to the very young reader as well as primary colours; there is a ‘Red guard’s van at the back / Orange petrol tanker next / Yellow grain hopper car / Green cattle truck’ etc. The book contains only 56 words and shows the train gathering speed, going through tunnels, passing by cities, crossing bridges, and moving on through the night. And, just as the train moves forward, so the young reader must turn the pages to keep up with the momentum of the narrative.

African-American Donald Crews, a gifted designer and graphic artist, uses large blocks of bright colour, geometric shapes and a sharp line against a white background which result in a poster like quality. There is a powerful sense of movement and anticipation as the reader’s eye is drawn from left to right along the horizontal track. As the train begins to move, Crews uses static pictures of train cars which are photographically blurred to create motion – an innovative technique at the time for children’s books and one that builds a sense of excitement that reaches a climax before the final page when the train is abruptly ‘gone’. Crews also makes use of type as a visual element, in this instance choosing the same colour as each wagon in the introductory section of the story.

A richly rewarding picture book for the very young, this is a most welcome reissue.


The Big Book of Words and Pictures


Ole Könnecke, Gecko, 22pp, 978 1 8774 6787 5, £10.99 board

This large format book of objects and animal characters engaged in all sorts of human activities is much more than a word and picture recognition book. The themes and contexts include parts

Apple Pie ABC 978-1 40830 802 8, £5.99 pbk

One Two That’s My Shoe 978 1 40831 196 7, £10.99 hbk

HHHH Alison Murray, Orchard, 32pp each

Ever since the ancient days of ‘A Apple Pie / B Bit it / C Cut it’ etc people have been eager to string out the alphabet as a kind of story rather than to give it the customary, and usually boring, object sequence: A Apple / B ball /C Cat etc. The main problem though is to craft your narrative into twenty-six stages, each beginning with a new, but fixed, letter of the alphabet without the whole thing losing momentum. (The A Apple Pie brigade have great trouble in getting their pie to survive to the end of the run.) Alison Murray deals with this a treat, her girl protagonist being greatly assisted by her dog. We are told by a publicity sheet that they are called Grace and Georgie but the book has them anonymously acting out a domestic drama as Georgie gets more and more interested in the Baking, Cooling and Dishing out of the pie until, having driven Grace away by his mournful Pining for it, he takes over the action and ends up ‘z z z z z z z z z’ going to sleep and dreaming of his ill-gotten feast. For all the book’s success in 2010, it has seemed worth waiting till 2011 to review it alongside Grace and Georgie’s companion volume where the cheeky hound pinches one of his mistress’s shoes and must be chased through enough obstacles (three teddies, four bricks...) to get us from one to ten. With the numerical sequence being so much shorter than the alphabetic one, Alison Murray can make the most of her own working of a text with the traditional ‘Buckle my shoe’ rhythms. As with ‘Apple Pie’, every page opening is joyously coloured and the flat two-dimensional images gain a fine momentum through both the text and

20 Books for Keeps No.192 January 2012

Learning new skills is a challenge. Making his cautious way towards the ocean Little Penguin meets other young creatures working towards physical independence. He is impressed by their perseverance and their ability to conquer the seas or the skies. This is an interesting and gentle way to convey to young readers that acquiring new skills can be daunting but worthwhile. Kolanovic’s illustrations convey the vastness of the Southern Ocean, in hues variably blue, black and white. All the creatures are endearingly cuddly, and should have much appeal for a young audience.

GB Utterly Lovely One HHHH

Mary Murphy, Walker, 32pp, 978 1 4063 2820 2, £11.99 hbk

‘Oh my yummy one, my utterly lovely one! Look at you, so gorgeous!’ sings a mother crane to her cranelet. Turn the page and more babies are celebrated! This lyrical picture book is a joyous celebration of their wonder and beauty. The language is poetic and fresh and prevented from being overly sweet by its simple cleverness and by the contrasting ar twork. Mary Murphy’s gentle pastel palette contrasts so well with her wacky, playful animals and daftly comic font - this book is a lovely example of how a well-worn theme can be given a new look with a creative mind. A delight!

JNH Lulu reads to Zeki HHHH

Anna McQuinn, ill. Rosalind Beardshaw, Alanna Books, 32pp, 978 1 9078 2504 0, £11.99 hbk

This is a lovely book to share with the very young, especially those anticipating a rival for their parents’ attention. Lulu’s mum is expecting a baby and in preparation reads her a

I know Susan Steggall’s other books well, including The Life of a Car and Busy Boats and so I am familiar with her carefully worked out approach to

the gyrations of that scamp Georgie. BA

Little Penguin Learns to Swim


Eilidh Rose, ill. Dubravka Kolanovic, Top That!, 32pp, 978 1 8495 6440 3, £5.99 pbk

book about a child in the same boat. Lulu has always been read to and the pattern continues before and after the baby’s arrival. What is highlighted is the enrichment that this life change brings, through the positive responses of Lulu and her family. Lulu models her behaviour on what she herself has experienced and she delights in sharing her love of story with baby brother Zeki, amidst the routine of family life:

‘Sometimes Zeki cries when he needs a new nappy. Lulu reads him her best potty book.’

So while Mum is feeding baby or Dad’s bathing him or putting away the ironing, Lulu’s there with a book or a story to tell. She feels listened to and involved. Mum and Dad are busy with the baby: ‘But not too busy to end the day with a story… for the best big sister of all.’

This title has a lot going for it. The text reads very well for the age group and the typeface is clearly set. The illustrations are very well matched to the narrative. It is the characters and their demeanour that catch our eye on each double page spread. Unfussy backgrounds, in slightly muted but warm colours and with just enough detail to contextualise the scene, help to frame the warmth of Lulu’s family life. A good book to help accentuate the positive. Previous ‘Lulu’ titles are Lulu Loves Stories and Lulu Loves the Library.

UC Red Car, Red Bus HHHHH

Susan Steggall, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 8478 0184 5, £11.99 hbk

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