We Love You, Hugless Douglas!
Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant Jumblebum
David Melling, Hodder Children’s Books, 32pp, 978 1 4449 0829 9, £11.99 hbk
boat. Eventually, he is reunited with it after finding it being used to make sand castles on the beach. Back on the swing, in the final pages, he makes sure he doesn’t leave it behind, but children will notice that he hasn’t paid the same attention to his arm. Not much of a tale, but Sue Hendra has told it with care. Bernard and his friends are colourful and appealing characters and Sue Hendra makes clever use of robot associated design elements. Some of the illustrations are on graph paper and the endpapers feature the books characters incorporated into circuit diagrams. As far as young children go, a mention of bottoms in a story seldom goes amiss. CB
My First Book of Numbers 978 1 9089 8500 2
My First Book of Colours 978 1 9089 8502 6
Hugless Douglas needs no introduction. This is his fourth adventure and he is loved by children and parents not just in the UK but across the world. It’s not hard to see why either: with his round, soft tummy, hopeful expression, and ever present sense of wonder, Douglas is pretty much irresistible. He has all the makings of a classic character for the very young: like Mick Inkpen’s Kipper, no matter what Douglas is up to, he is always clearly and unmistakeably a toddler.
In this story he’s called upon to help Flossie the lamb find Little Sheep. Flossie and Little Sheep are best friends and when, reunited at last, they trot happily off together, Douglas is suddenly left feeling sad. After the animated, madcap fun of the search for Little Sheep, David Melling captures Douglas’ change of mood beautifully, painting him in solitary splendour, staring wistfully away from the reader into the distance.
Of course, that’s not the end of the book, and on the next spread, all of the animals are back to provide Douglas with the love and hugs he needs. Somehow through all the daftness (the bouncing bunnies are particularly, satisfyingly silly), the reader has been on a real emotional journey and will close the book smiling, and reassured.
No-Bot: The Robot with No Bottom
Sue Hendra, Simon and Schuster, 32pp, 978 0 85707 445 4
Bernard the robot leaves his bottom behind on a swing in the park (easily done, I suppose), and sadly declares himself the No-bot of the title. It’s a word play to raise a chuckle and Bernard is a likeable red robot who spends the book forlornly searching for his lost bottom. For a time, it’s utilised by his friends bird and bear as a nest (too heavy) and as drums (too tinny). There are false alarms when Bernard thinks he’s spotted it as a hat, a bike basket, a window box and a
My First Book of Animals 978 1 9089 8503 3
Alain Grée Button Books 14pp. £4.99 each hbk.
These three small board books with a simple but effective format are just right for the younger end of the preschool years. Figure and ground are well differentiated: intensely coloured animals, people and objects are shown on dazzling white pages. All three books give opportunities for thinking and learning. My First Book of Numbers has on each page a clear number from one to ten, reinforced by the number spelled out: the pictures are interesting and witty. My First Book of Colours shows that the same colour can vary in interesting ways; the bunch of cherries to picture red includes both vibrant and darker shades and the crocodile to show green has a bottle green upper body and legs and a pale green underbelly. (This same ominously cheerful character comes up again in My First Book of Animals).The snowman is bright white, except for the part of him that seems to be in shadow – giving scope for comment and explanation. My First Book of Animals helps children make a start in understanding how we categorise aspects of our world. Creatures are placed under headings: farm, pets, woodland, birds, insects and sea animals. It is their potential to encourage questions and observations that makes these books merit a place on the home or nursery school bookshelf.
Jack’s Mega Machines: The Dinosaur Digger
Alison Ritchie and Mike Byrne, 32pp Simon and Schuster £6.99 978-0-85707-568-0, pbk
This book, second in a series, combines two subjects close to many boys’ (and possibly some girls’) hearts: diggers and dinosaurs. For this reason alone it is likely to appeal to youngsters, but the
22 Books for Keeps No.198 January 2013
cartoon-style illustrations will add to the reader’s enjoyment, as will the free ‘digger’ inside, although as it is made of paper it is unlikely to be robust enough for sustained toddler play. The story is a simple adventure wherein Jack, along with his dog Riley, and with the help of his digger, enters a magical land and rescues a troop of baby dinosaurs from becoming dinner for a T Rex. The undemanding story line will not matter to the young reader, but the adult may find it, and some of the text, a little wearisome and clumsy after repeated readings, although the reader will enjoy the digger ‘stunts’ enabling the rescue. What at first reading may appear to be overly technical vocabulary reveals the authors’ understanding of their audience, for it is not uncommon to come across the digger fan who can use technical vocabulary such as ‘pistons’ and ‘excavator arm’ with confident understanding.
LR A Flower in the Snow HHHH
Tracey Corderoy illus Sophie Allsopp, Egmont, 32pp, 978 1 4052 49447, hbk £10.99
From the moment you open this book a sense of magical wonder and serenity pervades. This is created not only by the vast remoteness of the polar landscape but by the hauntingly beautiful language and beautifully executed drawings.
In the midst of snow and isolation, a little girl and her great friend Bear experience the joys of shared experience and closeness. When Bear finds a single sunshine flower poking up from the snow, Luna is entranced. But her smile fades with the flower and Bear is concerned. In a quest to find Luna another flower, he sets off to search the four corners of the globe leaving Luna to fret alone in the cold. Much later, when Bear returns home empty handed, an overjoyed Luna assures him that it is he who is the only present she needs. Then she shows Bear how she’s grown another sunshine flower from the seeds of the first, and how she has kept a handful for them to plant together. So together they plant every seed and soon Bear and Luna are able to bask in a sunshine meadow of flowers, compete with butterflies bees, snails and ladybirds.
Written in a lyrical yet spare style, there is a tender eye for detail: Luna, does not leave footprints in the snow but ‘little tiptoe patterns’. And just in case the strangeness of this lonely polar life might alienate readers, the author cleverly brings us back to the reality of childhood comparing the relationship of Luna and Bear to ‘bread and strawberry jam’.
But despite such prosaic touches, awe and majesty shine through, reflected in the bold yet delicate illustrations, where flashes of strong colour are set against huge white expanses. There is whimsy too in the addition of little wooden doors to both the igloo and the cave where the two friends live.
A tale that explores the strength of friendship and a delight in nature.
Chae Strathie, ill. Ben Cort, Scholastic 32pp, 978 1 407108 01 8, £6.99pbk
This amusing cautionary tale, told in rhyme, warns of the consequences of not keeping one’s room tidy. Johnny’s response to his mum’s warnings about his messy ways is that his space has its own distinctive style. So, it’s not until the fearsome Jumblebum is attracted by its utter chaos one night, that Johnny sits up and takes notice. Then there seems only one way to escape the clutches of the terrible creature, either that or end up in Jumblebum’s tum.
Action packed illustrations overflowing with amusing details and telling expressions on the faces of human and other characters and a fast paced telling combine to make for a rollicking good read aloud for the untidy and hyperactive in particular.
JB Brave Squish Rabbit HHH
Katherine Battersby, Viking Children’s Books, 40pp, 9780670012688, £9.99 hbk
The acclaimed Squish Rabbit is back and he is afraid of the dark. ‘Squish was just a little rabbit, but being little led to big fears’ opens the book. With a simplicity and gentle touch, the story arc acknowledges the real and irrational fears young children may suffer, before illustrating that friendship helps us overcome fear, as does acting bravely in spite of our worries. When Squish’s friend goes missing, Squish heads out into the night to find her and discovers that it isn’t the scary experience he had anticipated. The tale ends with Squish’s realisation that while he might be only small, ‘being brave makes him feel much bigger.’
The reassuring story has very simple text and clear illustrations that will appeal to toddlers and a thread of silliness, which may attract their older siblings. The contemporary graphics, including the spirited rabbit – a thick black line drawing – and his collage world, just beg to be made into an animation or picture book app. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Squish Rabbit.
The Princess and the Pig HHH
Jonathan Emmett illus Poly Bernatene, Macmillan, 32pp, 978 0 330 51276 3, pbk £5.99
Mischief and mayhem are afoot in this subversive and witty fairy tale when a piglet and princess get accidentally swapped. Wickedly humorous, it’s especially funny when readers discover the reason for the swap: because the careless queen can’t stand the smell of the royal nappy! So the piglet (Priscilla) and princess (Pigmella) grow up in their vastly different households, creating absurd contrasts in life style, illustrated with hilarious pictures. It’s all part of the
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