BfK Animals with Tiny Cat HHHHH

Viviane Schwarz, Walker Books, 978-1-4063-7103-1, 32pp, £11.99 hbk

‘To illustrate’ – to shine a light on; traditionally this has been taken to mean that there has to be a text that requires enlightening. But this is not necessarily so and increasingly illustrators are moving away to illustrate ideas, emotions, to play. Viviane Schwarz is such an artist. Here her ability to conjure up ideas and character through line


minimal colour is perfectly displayed. The moment the book is opened, the reader meets Tiny Cat as he gambols, rolls, races, chases across not just the opening inside covers but as will be discovered, the final spreads. The mood is set. Tiny Cat is ready to play – and all conveyed through the energy of the artist’s line. In a previous book Tiny Cat introduced us to numbers; here he is enjoying himself by dressing up as different animals. The concept is simple and reflects the world of the child reader; no real animals required just everyday objects. But even these

I Love You, Stick Insect HHHHH

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 32pp, 978-1-4088-6991-8, £11.99, hbk

It’s impossible not to love the

irrepressible stick insect star of Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ picture book. All legs and enthusiasm he bounds into the book to declare extravagant love for ‘the most beautiful stick insect’ he has ever seen. A rather more sanguine butterfly is at hand to point out that the object of his affection is in fact simply a stick, something that will have been immediately apparent to

sharp-eyed young readers. This

doesn’t stop our hero dreaming of a loved-up future in which he and his darling have fun and laughter and live happily ever after. In his imagination, and over a series of vibrant spreads bursting with movement, we see the

can be scary. Tiny Cat has the answer – he can be a big cat and roar. There

is no clutter, which ensures no

unnecessary detail, Schwarz places her little cat against a plain white background


the reader cannot but help engage with the action and enjoy Tiny Cat’s expressions while almost certainly joining in with the sounds each animal makes. This is a picture book to enjoy from the front cover to the end – and to return to again and again to join in the fun. Brilliant. FH

two of them enjoying various outings – to the seaside, surfing, skating, on motorbikes and even dancing the hula (two or three hoops each). Each page builds on the silliness, composition and layout enhancing the comedy and surprise delivered by each spread, until the moment we have been expecting arrives, and the scales fall from the lovestruck insect’s eyes. It’s a lesson for us all perhaps on the pitfalls of blind infatuation, but mostly it’s a book that delights with its sheer unconquerable vivacity. Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is an illustrator to watch. MMa

The Stone Bird HHHH

Jenny McCarthy, illus, Patrick Benson, Andersen Press, 978-1-7834-4550-9, £11.99 hbk

Eliza and her mother live very near the sea, and one day she finds a stone on the beach. It fits into her hand perfectly, and she knows it is an egg. Her mother says it’s too heavy to be an egg, but Eliza says ‘Well, then, it’s a heavy egg’, and she puts it under her pillow. At bedtime it gets warm next to her face, so she puts it on the bedside table, and in the morning there is a stone bird, with a beak and knowing eyes. Time passes, and in the winter another little stone appears next to the bird. A bird and its egg have to be kept warm until the spring, and she makes them a nest out of her socks. In the spring, there is


Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant Ed’s Choice


indeed another bird, very tiny, and in the warmer weather, with the window open, the birds disappear, until her birthday morning, when they appear on the shed roof. They take flight, but leave her a grey feather. Patrick Benson’s luminous

illustrations of this simple story make this a delightful book. Eliza, and the mother who finally appreciates her child’s imagination and stops arguing, are well characterised, but


(this is evidently a single parent family) who come for Christmas are perhaps too conventionally ’old’ for a possible 5 or 6 year grandchild - Gran has thick and baggy grey tights, grey hair in a bun and a walking stick. The background details are interesting: there are lots of toys and ornaments around, and an actual recognisable book, My favourite Fairy Tales by Tony Ross lies on Eliza’s bedside table. One close-up of Eliza’s face filling a whole page as she gazes in wonder at her stone bird on the opposite page is particularly striking. This is Jenny McCartney’s first

book, and it is clear that the editorial staff at the excellent Andersen Press have faith in her – she is an author to watch out for. DB

What’s Next Door? HHHHH

Nicola O’Byrne, Nosy Crow, 32pp, 978-0-8576-3832-8, £11.99 hbk

What a fantastically engaging book to read out loud. Nicola O’Byrne’s book provides die cut portals into different habitats for a hapless croc called Carter who can’t find his proper home. The book begins with a question and continues with questions to the reader throughout. Well actually the first question has a little threat with it too – ‘Please can you help me find my way home? Or I will eat you.’ Children now it’s in jest but it still reels them in – it certainly did with my audience of children. The reader/s then have different

actions to perform in order to help Carter get through each door. The physical action contributes to making the book more memorable as it makes it even more interactive. The

Brian Alderson is founder of the Children’s Books History Society and a former Children’s Books Editor for The Times. Gwynneth Bailey is a freelance education and children’s book consultant. Clive Barnes, formerly Principal Children’s Librarian, Southampton City is a freelance researcher and writer. Diane Barnes, was a librarian for 20 years, mostly as a children’s specialist, working in Kent, Herts, Portsmouth and Hampshire, and Lusaka (Zambia) with the British Council. Jill Bennett is the author of Learning to Read with Picture Books and heads up a nursery unit. Jon Biddle is English Coordinator/Reading Champion at Moorlands Primary Academy in Norfolk, and co-founder of the Patron of Reading scheme. Rebecca Butler writes and lectures on children’s literature. Jane Churchill is a children’s book consultant. Stuart Dyer is an Assistant Head Teacher in a Bristol primary school. Anne Faundez is a freelance education and children’s book consultant. Janet Fisher is a children’s literature consultant. Geoff Fox is former Co-Editor (UK) of Children’s Literature in Education, but continues to work on the board and as an occasional teller of traditional tales. Sarah Gallagher is a headteacher and director of www.storyshack. org

Christine Hammill teaches in a college of further education and is also an author Ferelith Hordon is a former children’s librarian and editor of Books for Keeps Matthew Martin is a primary school teacher. Sue McGonigle is a Lecturer in Primary Education and Co-Creator of Dr. Lucy Pearson is Lecturer in Children’s Literature, Newcastle University. Margaret Pemberton is a school library consultant and blogs at Val Randall is Head of English and Literacy Co-ordinator at a Pupil Referral Unit. Andrea Reece is Managing Editor of Books for Keeps. Sue Roe is a children’s librarian. Elizabeth Schlenther is the compiler of Nicholas Tucker is honorary senior lecturer in Cultural and Community Studies at Sussex University.

book works as a chunky

hardback – robust enough for the die cast doors throughout and of course for that crocodile to make it through to the right place. The story itself is excellent for context to learn about habitats. Poor Carter keeps going through doors that take him to the wrong place. The illustrations are very funny; one door leads to a desert where he is pictured looking very uncomfortable, one leads to an arctic setting where it is just too cold for him. Carter’s facial expressions are great for discussion-you really do hope he finds the right door just so he is happy after all those wrong doors! A

very interactive, memorable

and fun portal adventure to inspire lots more books with holes in once children have the idea. SG

Books for Keeps No.228 January 2018 23

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