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leitmotiv in this modern fairy tale, ‘it happens all the while in books’.

It’s a theme that is well used to complete the story too, for when a prince is tricked into marrying Pigmella, he hopes his piggy bride will turn into a princess with a kiss. Some hope!

Strongly European in flavour, the illustrations are full of fun and incident. There is a great sense of pattern and dynamism in the angular shapes of the royal household, richly contrasted by the bouncy curves of the happier country-folk. With plenty of movement across the page, rich colours and soft edges complete the look.

For anyone who doesn’t fit in or any toddler who’s ever needed taming, this is the book.


Whizz Pop, Granny Stop! HHHH

Tracey Corderoy, ill. Joe Berger, Nosy Crow, 978-0-85763-1305, £10.99 hbk

Everyone thinks their granny is extra special, but for the little girl in this picturebook, whose granny is a witch, the magic often gets out of hand. As she explains:

Although I love her awfully

much/sometimes I wish she’d be/ a little less peculiar/ and a little more like… me!

Above all, the witch wants to help her granddaughter. What granny doesn’t? However, rather than have Granny whisk out her ‘Helping Kit’ day and night, the child longs to spend time together doing ordinary things. When her birthday comes around, she begs Granny: ‘let’s not use your Helping Kit – let’s whisk and

bake instead!’

The text bounces along at a rhythmic, happy pace, and the bright illustrations underline a relationship, which evidently is ‘made with tons of love’. The eccentric comedy in both text and pictures is brilliant, but it’s the connection between grandmother and child that is truly moving. From the pair behind Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble, this delightful follow-up offers everything you could want from a picture book and is an ideal gift for any grandchild or, indeed, for any grandmother.

LF Duck Sock Hop HHHHH

Jane Kohuth, ill. Jane Porter, Dial, 32pp, 978 0 8037 3712 9, £11.99 hbk

‘Ducks pull socks/from a big sock box:’ So begins this glorious tongue twister of a tale wherein a flock of sock-wearing ducks select their foot attire and then rock, boogie, line-dance, high kick, toe touch and generally cavort about at the weekly Duck Sock Hop creating havoc as they go. Indeed they dance those socks to destruction as they teeter, twist, tumble and trip before the music finally screeches to a halt leaving the now sockless ducks in a great big heap. Then its time for first aid, snacks and a farewell before the friends make their way with empty box, back home. Not for long though; it’s soon time for a trip to the Duck Sock Shop to replenish their supplies and count down to the next sock hop.

Young children for the most part need no excuse to get moving and this splendidly spirited story will soon having any early

years audience dancing their socks off – beware! And watch those moves!

Of course they will also demand that the book is read over and over and want to spend time delighting in those colourfully patterned socks be they spotted, squared, striped, starred or spattered with spoons.

JB I Want a Boyfriend! HHH

Tony Ross, Andersen 32pp £10.99 978-1-84939-465-9 hbk

This offering from the popular Little Princess series deals with a slightly surprising topic for the average preschooler - the desire for a boyfriend. However, it soon becomes clear that the Little Princess only really wants a playmate, and her classmate Donald, despite being ‘nice’ is not really suitable, while her beloved toy Gilbert is much more fitting. With crisp text, which will bear being read aloud repeatedly, fans of the Little Princess will not be disappointed, although those new to this character may wonder why such a topic has been chosen out of the range of issues available to this age group. The distinctive illustrations are bright and breezy with wonderful facial expressions telling much of the story as Little Princess and Donald explore this new relationship.


Big Book of Nursery Rhymes HHHHH

Kali Stileman, Doubleday, 48pp, 978-0-857-53044-8, £9.99 hbk

Anyone looking for a big format book of classic nursery rhymes will find that

5 – 8 Infant/Junior

Buzzing! Discover the poetry in garden minibeasts


Anneliese Emmans Dean, Brambleby Books Ltd., 160pp, 978-1-908-1-908241-07-8, £14.99hbk

Yes- a children’s fact book can be scientifically sound and lyrical too! Buzzing! combines quality information with witty poems and close-up photographs of exceptional beauty. In this case, truth is beauty as the poet says. Compact but content rich, this is an attractive and useful guide to all the insects and minibeasts likely to be found in the garden. There are eight chapters, each made up of eight double spreads. Each spread is devoted to a particular minibeast and organised systematically with: an information box setting out scientific name, family, class, and location; a ‘Factabulous’ section ; a poem which reinforces aspects of appearance and behaviour; a fine close-up photograph. An important question to ask when considering a book like this is: how good are the devices to help identify the young reader’s finds? Useful here are the pages of small pictures at the beginning of each chapter flagging the minibeasts to follow. And the

index, as well as listing specific names like Green Dock Beetle , Yellow Dung Fly and Mint Moth, gives page references for big categories like beetles, flies and moths. This is a book that encourages research and respect for these small creatures. With initial adult help for younger children, it is likely to be a favourite at home or at school and benefits from the availability of further material on a related website with a BugWatch page. I found this page lively and informative and likely to extend an interest sparked by the book.

MM Ernest & Celestine HHHH

Gabrielle Vincent, Catnip Publishing, 32pp, 978 1846 471582, £10.99

Muted ink and watercolour illustrations portray the special relationship between Celestine, a young mouse and large brown bear, Ernest. Poor Celestine is distraught when she loses her beloved toy penguin while out walking in the snow with Ernest. In response, Ernest does all he can to make up for the loss, searching the toyshop in vain for a replacement before coming up with another plan altogether.

First published in the UK in the 1980s

this tender story whose text comprises solely dialogue, has been reissued in slightly larger format with its text reworked, to coincide with the release of the animated film. The manner of telling means that the book is best suited to sharing with individuals or a small group of children because so much of the story, not least the moods and emotions of the characters, is unsaid, but conveyed within the illustrations which need to be pawed over and reflected upon.

JB Winnie’s Dinosaur Day HHHH

Valerie Thomas, ill. Korky Paul, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-279401-7, £10.99 hbk

Dinosaur Day is the thirteenth picture book in the ever-popular Winnie the Witch series. Winnie loves the museum and especially the dinosaur room with all those old dinosaur bones. Wilbur the cat, however, remains to be convinced. During a visit to the museum, Winnie spots a competition to draw or make a model of a dinosaur. Desperate to win the shiny medal, Winnie suddenly loses all inspiration. Finally she casts a spell to send herself and Winston to the prehistoric age, where she draws a

triceratops from real life.

Winnie got out her drawing book and her coloured pencils. It was much easier drawing a real dinosaur. Her drawing looked exactly like the triceratops. Well, it looked quite like the triceratops. ‘This is an excellent drawing,’ said Winnie. ‘It’s sure to win the prize.’

In fact, the drawing is a very creative take on the triceratops, and serves as a brief reminder to readers about having confidence in one’s own work. Winnie and Winston quickly magic themselves back to the museum in time for the prize-giving, but look who has come too…

There is something totally enchanting about the combination of Valerie Thomas’s straight-as-a-die text and Korky Paul’s riotously zany illustrations. Little wonder the pair is enjoying its 25th year of the Winnie the Witch series.


Super Soccer Boy and the Monster Mutants


Judy Brown, Piccadilly Press, 144pp, 978 84812 247 5, £4.99 pbk

Super Soccer Boy, also known as Harry Gribble, is back in the eighth and final volume in the series. When he was hit by

Books for Keeps No.198 January 2013 23

there are quite a lot to choose from. Some illustrators stick to a traditional style often showing child characters in period dress while others, like this one, bring a fresh eye to the ancient rhymes. Big Book of Nursery Rhymes, which is divided into ‘Favourite Rhymes’ and ‘Songs and Lullabies’, has considerable appeal for toddlers. The pages are nicely designed, giving each rhyme sufficient space. Print is clear and the engaging illustrations have a sharp line, often round beautiful and intense colours. Much thought has gone into picturing each rhyme and often their playful, teasing nature is realized. ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, for example, a short rhyme which enjoys a whole double spread, shows the cow jumping over a beautiful golden moon against a midnight blue sky. Below this, however, it is daytime as we have a bright green hill with blooming flowers. Many of the illustrations will lead to questions and comment. I have been sharing nursery rhyme books with toddlers for many years and I have never seen a more arresting illustration of ‘There Was An Old Lady’ than that shown in this book. The old lady sits with knife and fork poised at the head of a long table crossing the whole double spread on which fly, spider, bird, cat, dog, cow and horse are arranged in the sequence of the rhyme.

It is interesting that all the characters are shown as clothed animals. This works better for some rhymes than others : I was startled to see Miss Muffet as a cat and Little Jack Horner as a dog. But children accept the quirks of genre remarkably quickly, and the nature of the illustrations here adds to the distinctive character and humour of the book. In short, this will be great fun for both child and sharing adult.


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