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reviews Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant Troll Swap HHHHH

Leigh Hodgkinson, Nosy Crow, 32pp, 9780857631626, £6.99 pbk

children responding to a variety of situations at home and at school. Whether describing positive feelings - excitement, happiness and curiosity -or more problematic ones-loneliness, fear and boredom, the written text and lively illustrations are in perfect harmony. The flashes of verbal and visual humour are bound to make young children chuckle. The universal experience of


Design is an important, and often undervalued, element of picturebook making, and design can sometimes be overdone. Not with Troll Swap though. Between them, Leigh Hodgkinson and Nosy Crow have come up with a wonderfully well- presented and imagined offering.

The idea is very simple and well-worked: one’s given role in life is often best but it takes time to discover this. Troll, Timothy Limpet, and girl, Tabitha Lumpit, don’t fit in their allotted roles. Trolls are meant to be mucky and scary and noisy – aren’t they? And, of course, little girls should be polite and tidy and quiet. But Tabitha and Timothy are the opposite to these expectations. Conforming to their stereotypes is not easy for either of them; Tabitha’s mummy and daddy want a nice, polite and tidy little girl, and Timothy can’t manage to be disgusting and bad mannered like the other trolls. A role swap allows each to be as they want to be without feeling bad about it. But life is boring and conforming doesn’t make either Tabitha or Timothy feel special any more. So, predictably enough, they revert, to the relief of their families, who also found the conformists a bit dull.

Hodgkinson’s faux-simple images are a delight; each character is invested with character and every page opening creates an air of expectation. Layout is never predictable: everything is utilised - the deadpan text is physically incorporated into the visual story and colour is quite muted, allowing the reader to see as well as to read/hear the story.


The Great Big Book of Feelings


Mary Hoffman, illus Ros Asquith, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 9781847802811, £11.99 hbk

This large colourful book, covering a good spread of the moods and feelings children experience, is ideal for sharing with a nursery class or with a parent at home. It has a modern feel and shows different

embarrassed by what our parents say or do is exemplified by the picture of a mother rushing up to her son who is with his friends at the start of a school trip, shouting ‘Jack! You’ve forgotten your TEDDY!’ The book makes it clear that different people react differently in the same situation. ‘Some people never feel embarrassed’. Most people, however, feel some anxiety about big things like moving house and starting a new school. Young children have to understand and cope with their own emotions and learn to recognize these in other people. Interpreting how people are feeling involves looking at their facial expressions, noting what they say or do not say and even noticing how they are moving, standing or sitting. How do we learn all this? Through observation, experience and from talking about it to others. Sensitive and practical advice is given about one of the most difficult emotions for children to deal with: feelings of anger. You might cope by going for a walk, doing an angry dance or drawing an angry picture. Listening to music or to the soothing sound of water is a strategy to try when you feel upset. Above all, this book helps by encouraging reflection and discussion. It ends with a life enhancing double spread celebrating ‘ways of feeling better’.

MM Nanny Fox HHHH

Georgie Adams illus. Selina Young, Orion Books, 32pp, 978-1-4440-0929-3, £9.99 hbk

Arnold the fox is so captivated by the charm of chickens, and their fluffy chicks, that he begins to feel alienated from his chicken poaching family. The family, seeing a rebel in their midst, do their best to convince Arnold that friendship with chickens is out of the question.

‘“Eating chickens is what foxes do best!” Pa Fox said.

“And catching them is fun!” said Ma Fox.’

But to Arnold the very idea is unthinkable. So, unlike foxes in most stories, Arnold leaves home to offer himself as a nanny to the baby chicks. And all goes swimmingly well until the night Arnold’s siblings come creeping through the shadows…

In dramatic scenes of flying fur and feathers we see the dilemma of someone faced with family loyalty and honour.

What will Arnold do?

The right thing of course - and it’s very humorously portrayed:

‘“The frightened chicks clambered out of the henhouse. Mrs. Buff Orpington opened a beady eye and saw Arnold bending over her.

“Did you just try to eat me?” she croaked. Arnold shook his head.’

Georgie Adams knows her Buff Orpingtons, and her experience as an editor is demonstrated in her emotive language and wit. With an underlying vegetarian leitmotiv she shows us how a gentle nature can belie the steely strength it takes to step out on your own. For someone who turned her back on the staunch philosophies of her parents, this story had great resonance.

There is a depth to Selina Young’s pictures, which is powerfully created by her rich colours and lively line. Her skill is demonstrated on every level, from her zany characters (whose multitudinous expressions are executed by the merest line) to her knowledge of light source and shadows, supported by compositions which are energetic and fun. There’s a love of the countryside and nature too here, which is perfectly matched by the ethos of the story. No wonder this classic book has been reissued. Moreover, what a terrible loss to the children’s’ book world was Selina Young’s untimely death in 2007.

JNH Penguins Can’t Fly HHH

Richard Byrne, Andersen Press, 32pp, 978 1849395137, £10.99 hbk

Gregory the gull and Hudson the penguin have been best friends since they hatched. They do everything together, that is, until Gregory spots some gulls flying and decides to have a go himself. Gregory is a natural and encourages Hudson to give it a go but after a few flops Hudson feels like a failure. Flying might not be his forte but he’s an incredible diver and a true friend so when Gregory gets into some trouble underwater it’s Hudson to the rescue!

Richard Byrne is an exciting new talent in picture books and this simple story of friendship is a lovely new addition to his growing list. The illustrations feel fresh and the bright palette make the icy scenery eye-catching and appealing to toddlers. A lightness of touch ensures the text isn’t weighed down with lessons in loyalty but this short story could easily become a useful example when talking about the importance of friendship. A cool delight that will please penguin fans who aren’t yet ready for the subtle qualities of Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found.

KC Two Nests HHHHH

Laurance Anholt , ill. Tim Coplestone, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 84780 328 8, £11.99 hbk.

As autumn leaves fall, two birds Betty and Paul are sitting in a cherry tree. Betty wants a cosy nest, Paul builds it and the pair snuggle throughout the winter. Spring brings the blossoms and a funny feeling in Betty’s tummy. A month later a baby bird has hatched and Betty sings it a song of love. But soon the family seems to have outgrown the nest, the parents are bickering and Paul packs his bags to live in a new nest. All three birds are left feeling sad but then Betty sings another song of love and this time the message is “WE

BOTH LOVE YOU”. As the cherries ripen Baby starts to feel fluttery and takes flight. Now, baby bird can visit both Betty and Paul and spend time in each of their homes.

Tenderly told in rhyme, this tale about parental separation takes a difficult subject and presents it sensitively for a very young audience reassuring children that no matter where they live, both parents love them and it’s their parents not they who are responsible for the split. JB

I Am Not a Copycat! HHHH

Ann Bonwill, ill. Simon Rickerty, Oxford, 32pp, 978 0 19 274545 3 £6.99 pbk

Julia Donaldson chose Bonwill’s first book about Hugo and Bella, I Don’t Want to Be a Pea, as one of her favourite picture books of 2011, and this follow-up is just as enchanting. Conducted entirely in conversation, in two different fonts, the book develops the theme of copying, all-be-it that the adoring Bella (the bird) only wants to be like Hugo (the hippo). Bella just loves - and copies - everything about Hugo, his hat, goggles, flippers and even his armbands! Whilst Bella loudly proclaims her admiration for his moves, Hugo continues practising for his water ballet…. grumbling, for he had intended it a solo performance. The relationship between the two creatures is hilarious, developed further by the illustrations, simple, bold lines outlining each character. Hugo proclaims his talents are unique, and Bella agrees, yes, they are, whilst copying him in every move! But finally it is their joint performance that is loudly applauded. A very funny tale, which also reminds readers of the relationship between hippos and birds in the wild.

GB Harris the Hero HHH

Lynne Rickards illus Gabby Grant, Picture Kelpies, 32pp, 978-0-86315-952-7, £5.99 pbk

Harris, a lonely puffin surrounded by couples, sets out to find adventure and a possible mate. On his journey he comes across a lost baby seal, and willingly helps to pull the little creature back to his island. Harris is helped along the way by various aquatic creatures, all very inventive and capable. It’s heartwarming story with a romantic theme running through as in the end Harris fins a mate on the island and sets up home with her.

There’s variety in the illustrations with different angles and points of view depicting the birds well, particularly the puffin. It’s evident there has been much observation of the real thing. The animals are charming and the pathos of the baby seal gives quite an emotional tug. A light airy touch with colour allows the sense of space and fresh sea breezes through.

Stories told in rhyme present two problems. One is that co-editions are difficult because of translation and the other is that sometimes the rhyme leads the story, rather than the other way round.

Books for Keeps No.200 May 2013 21

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