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Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant Rex HHHHH

Simon James, Walker Books, 32pp, 978 1 406 4822 4 hbk, £11.99 hbk

A very, very long time ago there lived a terrifying tyrannosaurus, who scared everyone. One day, whilst the tyrannosaurus was sleeping, an abandoned egg hatched in his cave. A little dinosaur appeared insisting the big dinosaur was his ‘Dadda’. Eventually the grumpy T-rex begins to enjoy the little dinosaur’s company, teaching him to stomp, smash and uproot trees. But only after the pair became parted does the T-rex really know what it is to be a father.

Rex is a touching story about unconditional love, fatherhood, as well as engaging issues such as adoption and single parent families. With beautiful illustrations and lots of

different dinosaurs, this is perfect for bedtime and ‘roaring’ aloud.

HH Baby’s Got the Blues HHH

Carol Diggory Shields, ill. Lauren Tobia, Walker, 26pp, 978 1 4063 5154 5, £11.99 hbk

This is an unusual wheeze as the story is told from the baby’s point of view, and he has lots to complain about. While his older siblings and parents think he has an easy life with everything done for him, he knows his life is one long trial of soggy nappies, mashed up food that he doesn’t choose, an inability to play with the other children, and being put to bed in a jail – otherwise known as a cot. Poor little baby. The fact is, of course, that he is also loved and cuddled and kissed, so things can’t be too bad.

The story is written as a blues riff and could well be sung to a made-up tune, giving a family lots of opportunity for fun. Older siblings, who may be jealous of a baby’s constant needs, will find this idea that the baby doesn’t actually like being looked after rather consoling. The pictures are fun too, with lots of humour mixed up in the bright colours and detail. ES

Let’s Go, Baby-O! HHHH

Janet McLean, ill.Andrew McClean, Allen & Unwin, 32pp, 978 1 7433 6131 3, £6.99 board

This is a small, board book version, the title being an action rhyme that is played between baby and his much older girl cousin who together jump and twirl:

‘To the up, To the down, To the turn around.’

5 – 8 Infant/Junior

Editor’s Choice

The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race HHHHH

James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon, Digital Leaf, 48pp, 9781909428027, £10.99 hbk

There is going to be a race. The animals - weasel, puffin, unicorn, baboon, pig and lobster. Off they go. But who will be crowned champion? In their eagerness to be the winner the animals resort to cheating - all except the unicorn who predictably arrives last. But all is not lost, snail, unnoticed, has seen what has gone on. All is revealed, and the right result achieved.

With its bold retro illustrations using a flat perspective and saturated palette of limited colours (including a heavy use of pinks) combined with a quirky text, this will not appeal to everyone. However, it is great fun. Borrowing from the tradition of

Zeraffa Giraffa HHHHH

Dianne Hofmeyr, illus Jane Ray, Frances Lincoln, 40pp, 978-1847803443, £11.99 hbk

In 1824, Muhammad Ali, the ruler of Egypt, decided to present Charles X of France with the gift of a giraffe. A baby giraffe was duly captured and dispatched to the French court – over 2500 miles away. The true story of Zeraffa the giraffe is told here by Dianne Hofmeyr and Jane Ray.

The story is a fascinating one and its telling in this beautiful and unusual book will capture readers’ imaginations, and quite likely inspire them to find out more about Zeraffa and her keeper, Atir.

Zeraffa’s journey begins on the plains of Sudan, where ‘the grass grows tall and the acacias taste sweet’. To reach Paris, Zeraffa must first sail down the river Nile in a felucca, the

khaki green of the grasslands becoming the dust of the desert, split down the middle by the shining green waters of the river, which is dotted with the white sails of the little boats. Crossing the sea, she arrives in Marseille to a film star’s reception, and there the decision is made that Zeraffa and Atir will walk the final 550 miles. Now the dry heat of Africa is left behind, as the two walk through the bright greens of Europe, the pink houses and rich clothes of the crowds who flock to see her vibrantly depicted in Jane Ray’s detailed yet almost impressionistic paintings.

Arriving in Paris Zeraffa is just as at home strolling down the Champs-Élysées as she was on the plains of Africa, and soon has the capitol at her feet, the ladies of the court vying to style their hair á la Girafe and going so far as to glue false eyelashes to their lids.

The book opens in the morning, and ends in the evening with Zeraffa, Amir

24 Books for Keeps No.206 May 2014

Carrol, Nash and Thurber, here is a lively nonsense scenario in which a pig can sail in a chocolate submarine and puffin uses a banana digger. Young readers will have no difficulty in identifying which royal starts the race. The text, well placed on the page, is word -rich in exciting vocabulary and imaginative juxtapositions making it a pleasure to read.


and the king’s grand-daughter Louise Marie Thérèse gazing towards Africa and feeling its warmth – just enough of a hint of melancholy to send you back to the beginning to read the story again.

Hofmeyr’s narrative is short, but packs a huge amount in, and Jane Ray’s illustrations perfectly match the singularity and strangeness of the story, a fairytale that just happens to be true. Each spread is a delight, a chapter in itself, with so much to read, observe and wonder at. A very special book indeed.

LS Flowerpot Farm HHHH

Lorraine Harrison & Faye Bradley (ill.), Ivy Press, 64 pp, 978-1-78240-081-3, £10.99 hbk.

‘Green fingers at the ready-it’s time to get farming!’

This is just the way to write a first gardening book for children. The writing style is conversational but the advice is clear and the information is sound. The idea of a farm as a setting for all sorts of interesting activities outdoors works extremely well. Double spreads give practical advice about sowing and growing seeds, decorating flowerpots, nurturing sunflowers and chives and there is helpful input on garden friends and garden pests. There are some fine, bright pictures of birds, insects and flowers and others with some visual humour: a smiling carrot holds a trowel and a vibrant strawberry rides a bike. Some might feel the plants with faces mismatch with informational writing, but this kind of quirkiness entertains young children and they soon distinguish between the information and the fun elements. And the book does introduce some of the conventions of procedural writing. Each activity is set out in numbered steps, key words like ‘compost’, ‘trowel’ and ‘pollination’ are defined and there are simple labelled diagrams of a seedling and a flower. Adult help would be needed to carry out some of the activities and the author points out where this is the case. This would be a useful addition to the early years classroom collection or home library.

MM Oi Frog! HHHH

Kes Gray, ill. Jim Field, Hodder, 978-1-444-91085-8, £11.99hbk

Kes Gray and Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner Jim Field make an excellent pairing in this picture book perfectly aimed at young children. Those first encountering phonics and reading simple ‘cat sat on the mat’ books will find hilarity in this tale of a bossy cat with extremely fixed ideas about animal nature.

In Cat’s world, not only must frog sit on a log, whether he likes it or not, but gophers sit on sofas, hares sit on chairs and lions sit on irons. My young audience quickly got the joke and continued inventing their own silly rhymes when the story was finished. But it is the illustrations that really recommend the book. The po-faced, know-it-all cat contrasts with the various animals whose reactions range from bafflement to discomfort in a series of increasingly funny scenes, making this a picture book that is fun to share.


Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey


Alex Milway, Walker Books, 84pp, 978 1 4063 4055 6, £6.99 pbk

Pigsticks is thirsty for adventure and anxious to travel to the Ends of the Earth. After failing to find a suitable assistant for his expedition, he finally persuades a reluctant fellow villager, Harold the hamster, to join him. Their journey takes them across desert and mountain and sets them in the path of a terrifying herd of goats who want them for lunch. Escape and survival soon become their first concern. But throughout their adventure, Pigsticks remains bent on finding the Ends of the Earth.

This is an entertaining story with much of its humour deriving from the way the characters complement each other. Pigsticks is ever optimistic, resourceful and curious while Harold is fearful, frail and anxious. Together, they make the perfect match. The illustrations are energetic and colourful, adding unpredictability to

In between their wibbles and wobbles, their bounces and pounces, their jumps, bumps and thumps, the two stop to gaze out of the window at the story that is unfolding in the garden. Two adults are hard at work, the baby birds sing and the children play in their den but then the birds raise an alarm call as a fierce-looking cat edges closer; cat and dog circle the tree before coming face to face. Another dog appears, dogs chase cat, the den is wrecked, then dismantled, the fledglings are fed, the den restructured to offer alternative play activities involving water and mud. Everyone, human and animal can join the fun. Then it’s time to tidy up and the insiders come face to face with those without.

This is a wonderful book to share with the very young, both with all the actions included and then, much more slowly, taking plenty of time to explore the delightful details of the drama depicted in the watercolour illustrations.


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