This book is a case of the latter. The rhymes are somewhat sophisticated for the age group who will enjoy this story. And the pink cheeks of the female puffin wife are reminiscent of a kind of Disney coyness that feels dated. However, the inventiveness of the sea creatures in pulling along the seal is appealing.
JNH The Disgusting Sandwich HHH
Gareth Edwards, ill. Hannah Shaw, Alison Green Books, 32pp,9781407131450 £6.99 pbk
‘Would YOU eat this sandwich?’ is the question on the cover, drawing the reader in to an entertaining story about a very hungry badger’s tolerance of the disgusting. Badger lives on the edge of a park and the images tell us that he usually avails of a running buffet from the rubbish bins. But it’s a low day for edibles and we can almost hear Badger’s tummy going ‘Rumble, Rumble …’. So, when a boy drops a tasty-looking sandwich made with fresh white bread and peanut butter, Badger runs. He doesn’t mind that it’s covered in gritty sand from the sandpit … but neither does an opportunist squirrel. Then, when squirrel’s children squabble over it, the sandwich falls into a nearby pond. Gloopy green slime is the next addition, and, showing one creature’s disgust is another’s delight, this doesn’t deter a waiting frog. On it goes, as various creatures display increasing levels of tolerance for unappetising additions to the sandwich, until at last, slugs start to nibble it. Badger, still hungry eventually catches his prey. And what does he do …?
The Disgusting Sandwich will nicely feed young children’s appetite (sorry BfK readers) for the unpleasant. It opens up conversations about why we find certain things inviting to eat and are repulsed by others, while showing that levels of tolerance for the yucky might vary. The park scenes are interesting and Shaw’s sketchy artwork gives life to the varied creatures in pursuit of the sandwich, especially the feisty lady fox who prefers live pigeon as part of her diet.
Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile HHH
Jez Alborough, Doubleday, 32pp, 978-0-857-53033-2, £11.99 hbk
Cheerful, Nat the Cat sets out with her winning smile to invite her friends on a picnic. But when she’s met with grumpy negativity, her joie de vivre is squashed. It’s only when the mood of Nat’s friends become lightened by the memory of the her winning smile, that we see how strongly the disposition of others can affect us. Cleverly using childlike language to describe their changing feelings, Jez Alborough addresses an important part of understanding motivation and temperament.
Captured in the sunny colours of the countryside, Alborough uses a painterly stroke on bold-faced animals. And though his sweet kitten can sometimes appear overly cute, his close up views and the humorous expressions of the other animals are sure to amuse the very young. JNH
Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant Eleanor’s Eyebrows
Timothy Knapman, illus. David Tazzyman, Simon and Schuster, 32pp 9780857078414 £6.99 pbk
the next day he sees an advertisement for The Mummy Shop (which just happens to be owned by a fox). This shop, like no other, promises to provide mummys to order, and the little boy phones the shop right away. The fact that all the mums are animals doesn’t faze the little boy at all, but there is something wrong with each one. The rabbit is excellent at bouncing, but cooks nothing but carrots. The sheep is a great cook but makes him wear scratchy, woolly clothes. And so it goes. Adults will see the end coming a mile away, but children will be too enthralled by the zany ideas and the super-bright pictures to realise that the little boy’s own mummy is the perfect answer. A nicely-tuned tale to convince children they are better off with the family they have even when they sometimes must do things they don’t like. ES
Benjamin and the Super Spectacles
We all have eyebrows, but do we ever contemplate them? Probably not, when we are Eleanor’s age anyway. However, this thoughtful girl knows what all her facial parts are for, except for these two ‘scruffy, hairy, little bits of fluff’. But eyebrows have feelings, so while Eleanor sleeps, they slide off her face to head for the Big Wide World. But like a lot of characters in such tales, they find life away from home is not so easy. They can’t be blamed for trying though: being a caterpillar isn’t much fun since the taste of leaves is unpalatable; it’s dangerous as the twirling moustache of a magician, and there are other occupational hazards such as handwarmers for beautiful lady beetles or tyres on a stick insect’s motorbike. It’s hard to invest eyebrows with character, especially when they are not attached to a face, but Tazzyman gamely tries with these two. Eleanor herself is far being short of character
Eyebrowless Eleanor is happy enough until her Granny throws a screaming fit at the sight of her grandchild. Nothing can really replace eyebrows, and suddenly Eleanor notices everyone has these facial appendages. And not only that, but eyebrows differ: squiggly, fat, sensible, mad – they come in all shapes and positions. A happy resolution occurs to this moral tale in which the messages are craftily concealed. Eyebrows discover the big, wide world is a tricky place, and Eleanor learns to appreciate what she already has, and the value of difference too.
Simple line and restrained colour balance an air of mock-seriousness with the absurdity of Eleanor’s situation. Knapman’s text is also restrained; it and the Courier typeface – very fashionable these days - reinforce a presentation that balances realism with the ridiculous.
JB The Mummy Shop HHH
Abie Longstaff, ill. Lauren Beard, Scholastic, 32pp, 978 1 407114 92 7, £6.99 pbk
The little boy in this picture book is cross because his mummy has made him tidy his room and help with the shopping; furthermore, she insists that he get out of the bath just when he is having fun! Luckily,
22 Books for Keeps No.200 May 2013
Rachel Bright, HarperCollins, 32pp, 978-0-00-7445509, £6.99 pbk
Like most of us, Benjamin Bunny shuns the idea of having to wear glasses, despite his obvious need for them. Accidents like bouncing headfirst into squidgy cake seem preferable to never being able to bounce again (for bouncing is Benjamin’s favourite thing).
So when his worst fears are realised and Benjamin’s new spectacles fall off mid bounce, he is cast into bunny like gloom.
But Benjamin lives in the tight-knit little community of Woollybottom where the supportive friends and neighbours are willing to try anything to help. So while Benjamin has a lovely glasses-free bouncing session, his friends get to work. They add, invent and concoct the most magnificent, splendid additions to Benjamin’s ordinary glasses making them into ‘Super Spectacles’. These specs not only stay on, but have both x-ray and night vision. Soon all the other Woollybottomers want glasses just like Benjamin’s, making Benjamin just like them after all. Happiness all around!
Rachel Bright paints funny, playful characters in clean and clear fresh colours. There are child-like visual jokes, lots of speedy movement and plenty of clean space for text. Utterly delightful.
However, aimed at a very young audience, I found the knowing archness displayed by the ‘Woollybottomers’ (who are embarrassed at being seen in their underwear) a little sad. Perhaps I am naïve to believe that this kind of coyness comes developmentally a little later, but the disparity between a first experience idea and the sophistication of modesty seemed at odds. Nevertheless this is a book that is certain to be a popular one.
JNH Lion and Mouse HHHHH
Catalina Echeverri, Jonathan Cape, 32pp, 978 1 780 08017 8, £5.99 pbk
This simple story is hugely enhanced by remarkable illustrations. Lion and Mouse are friends, but Lion is a terrible boaster. He believes himself to be the best at everything, and when Mouse disappears because he feels belittled, Lion hardly notices. But when the dark comes, Lion is
scared and calls out for his friend Mouse. Mouse is unsure as to whether to come to the rescue, but he does, and Lion learns about true friendship. ‘From that day on, Lion and Mouse were the best at being best friends.’ Simple, yes, but the illustrations achieve so much more than an artless morality tale. Ms Echeverri uses pencil and zinging colour in ways not often seen. The two animals are outlined in pencil, and Lion’s mane and tail are zigzag pencil lines, as are Mouse’s whiskers and tail. They have bright gingham clothes, Lion’s being brightest, of course, as he must be best. The background colour is blue or gold on each page, except for the blackness when Lion is in the dark. The originality of the artist’s work is emphasised in the way she has Mouse rescue Lion. He draws a circle of light(with a pencil) from behind the dark, enlarging it until he can throw a rope (another pencil line) to Lion. The integrated text is very much part of the whole, and the delicacy of much of the line drawing is exquisite – particularly the squiggly trees at the beginning and end of the story. A quite special book.
No More Kisses for Bernard! HHHH
Niki Daly, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 84780 428 0, £6.99 pbk
Aunts Lula, Lola, Lilly and Tallulah all want to express their great love for Bernard by covering him from head to toe with kisses! This drives Bernard BONKERS, those sneaky-on-the-nose and smoochy-got-to-go kisses. He proclaims loudly, NO MORE KISSES! Reluctantly, the aunts agree. But on his birthday, Aunt Tallulah defies the ban and sticks a fat, smudgy kiss right on his nose. Meantime, we see Bernard’s dachshund fiercely defending him, the noise must have been horrific!! Drawn in Daly’s inimitable style and told with great humour throughout, his latest book is packed with hilarious verbal and illustrative jokes, the solution to the kissing problem being solved through paper kisses. Thankfully, Bernard does agree to a bedtime
peck-on-the-dimple goodnight-sleep-tight kiss for his parents! GB
My Big World: Facts and fun, questions and answers, things to make and do
Sophie Dauvois and Alex Barrow, illus Maggie Li and Rachel Ortas, Thames and Hudson, OKIDO, 64pp, 978-0-500-65016-5, £12.95 hbk
This is a simply splendid, large, modern looking activity book with a bright inviting cover. There is plenty to involve preschoolers and some of the activities would interest slightly older children too. The book is an excellent introduction to geography and science; young learners are invited to accompany two little characters, Alex and Koko, and three explorers on an adventure to investigate the world around them. Things start from home then branch out to the farm, the town and then to places with rivers, mountains and forests. Finally, there are exciting pictures and text about outer space with suggestions for some star gazing. The pages are well designed and alive with vibrant, helpfully
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